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Recipe for Failure: An Employee Volunteer Program Without the Right Technology

01/29/2016 01:26 am ET | Updated Jan 29, 2016

A recent report by America's Charities (an exclusive partner of my company, Causecast) puts to rest any doubts about the link between employee volunteering and employee engagement. Companies prioritize employee engagement as a way to attract and retain employees, and 84 percent of the companies surveyed view volunteer opportunities as an important way to engage employees.

The report, Snapshot 2015: The New Corporate DNA - Where Employee Engagement and Social Impact Converge, illustrates the evolving expectations of employees today. Employee volunteer and giving programs are a perk that employees - particularly Millennials - demand in their companies, and there are a range of features that employees look for in these programs. "Given the changing workforce in both age and global expansion," said one corporate respondent, "there is a need to reinvent our programming. It is important that we learn what our employees want in a giving program. Our current giving campaign is successful but it is NOT resonating with millennial employees who wish to give faster and differently."

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Modern technology is key to enabling the range of features that employees look for in their corporate programs. Without a robust volunteer and giving program, administrators are hard-pressed to keep up with the functions routinely offered to employees today. For example, as Dave Armon, Chief Marketing Officer of 3BL Media notes, "Snapshot 2015 shows the number of companies incorporating employee tweets, photos, video and other content into their official social media presence has doubled since Snapshot 2013. This corresponds with a trend we're seeing at 3BL Media, where organic, employee-produced content about community and charity initiatives is being published on company newsrooms and intranets."

Snapshot 2013 highlighted the technology challenge companies faced as they expressed the desire to have "all engagement embedded into one tool that is easy to manage and streamlines the employee experience." Despite the wide interest in volunteering, employees still need innovate on-ramps to engage in these programs and time-crunched administrators need easy solutions that automate engagement features.

Increasingly, companies are recognizing that technology platforms dedicated to managing corporate volunteer and giving programs - like that of Causecast - are an essential tool for engagement. According to Snapshot 2015, 40% of corporate respondents have implemented a new employee engagement platform within the last 18 months. More than 80% of respondents said they use these platforms to allow employees to give money; 83% said these platforms make it easy to volunteer time; 65% use it to record volunteer hours and 69% use technology to sign up for a volunteer event. About one-third (37%) use technology platforms to empower employees to promote their favorite causes, and 54% said these platforms make it easy for employees to access the corporate matching gift program

However, there are significant differences between how small and large companies empower employees:

  • 64% of small companies use technology platforms to empower employees to give money; 96% of large companies do so
  • 50% of small companies use technology platforms for recording volunteer hours; 80% of large companies do so
  • 59% of small companies use technology platforms for signing up for volunteer events; 80% of large companies do so
  • 14% of small companies use technology platforms for evaluating a volunteer event; 36% of large companies do so
  • 27% of small companies use technology platforms to empower employees to access their corporate matching programs; 80% of large companies do so
  • 45% of small companies use technology platforms to promote their favorite causes; 28% of large companies do so
  • 36% of small companies use technology platforms to fundraise for their favorite causes; 20% of large companies do so
  • 27% of small companies use technology platforms to empower employees to push out messages, videos or pictures to their peers; 28% of large companies do so

It's interesting to see how the one area where small companies outperform large companies in their use of technology platforms is towards championing causes that are meaningful to the company. This could be because larger companies are increasingly recognizing the benefit of empowering employees to pursue the causes that mean the most to them. "There are significant employee engagement benefits to directing corporate charitable funds towards the causes employees are passionate about rather than exclusively supporting a handful of charities a company's executive leadership team chooses," notes Adam Weinger, President of Double the Donation.

Small companies are competing for the same talent as large companies, so Snapshot 2015 shows how important it is for companies of all sizes to keep up with the growing sophistication of volunteer and giving programs. Whether it's offering year-round volunteering and automatic payroll donations, or encouraging skills-based volunteering and connecting employees to causes they care about, today's programs need to offer myriad incentives for participation. Modern technology is key to facilitating these needs with ease.

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