THE BLOG
10/30/2016 01:33 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When Employees Want to Volunteer But It's Tough to Leave the Office

2016-10-30-1477848744-207470-IMCkitting2.JPG
Sometimes, employees have the best of intentions but just don't have the time or flexibility to volunteer. How can you engage all of your employees in volunteering so that everyone feels that they're part of your corporate culture of giving back?

Employee volunteer and giving isn't a one-size fits all proposition, so the same "done in a day" experience that suits some employees to a T isn't going to work for everyone, for reasons ranging from availability to interest. Successful volunteer programs offer a broad array of cause engagement for employee involvement, and this includes opportunities offered within the four walls of your office.

Instead of giving up on employees who can't or don't want to travel to a volunteer opportunity, get innovative about ways to offer opportunities that come straight to your employees. Myriad possibilities for in-office volunteering exist, but here are three key categories to consider when it comes to convenient and impactful cause engagement on your own doorstep.

1. On-Site Volunteering Events

A range of organizations now specialize in packaging volunteering opportunities as a fun group employee experience that can be enjoyed on site, en masse, while helping the organization serve others.

For example, consider International Medical Corps, an organization that works with companies to mobilize employees as first responders to international crises and natural disasters around the world. IMC responds to crises in over 30 countries by delivering emergency health care, providing training and offering health related services to those affected by natural disasters, conflict, famine and disease, no matter the location or conditions.

So how can a company help International Medical Corps with international relief work without sending employees to far-flung corners of the earth - or even out the front door at all? By participating in hygiene kit assembly events, which includes items that most of us take for granted but that provide essential supplies to people in need, such as toothbrushes and soap. Kitting events usually kick off with a speaker from International Medical Corps who offers context for where these kits are going and why this work is so important, and International Medical Corps works with companies to develop a co-branded social media and communication strategy around the event to highlight their good work.

"Kitting is an employee engagement strategy that we have found to be quite popular," notes IMC Vice President Rebecca Milner. "It allows employees to do something hands-on to have a tangible experience with people in need and bring meaning to their work."

Companies such as TOMS and JP Morgan Chase have arranged for kitting events at their offices, and Walmart even made kitting a part of their annual shareholders meeting, with 1500 kits assembled by 1000 people. The event offers a perfect way to bring people together who don't see each other on a daily basis and bridge a connection through cause.

"Assembling hygiene kits has proved hugely popular as an employee engagement strategy," notes International Medical Corps Vice President Rebecca Milner. "It allows employees to do something hands-on, to have a tangible experience that connects them with people in need - and brings meaning to their own work."

Causecast client Optimizely also experienced the goodwill of the International Medical Corps kitting event firsthand, when 60 Optimizely employees gathered to assemble 500 kits to be sent to Nigeria, as part of International Medical Corps' polio vaccination program. "For folks who want to give back who might be really busy and stressed out, the kitting event was perfect," says John Leonard, program manager of Optimizely, which is making a concerted effort to integrate social impact into the culture and business strategy of its organization.

The International Medical Corps kitting event was just one of many impact activities offered as a part of Optimizely's Impact Week, with volunteer opportunities ranging from cleaning up a park to serving meals at a soup kitchen to a hackathon, all serving 13 different nonprofits. International Medical Corps' kitting event was the final event of the week, the shortest in duration, and the largest in terms of participation.

"We arranged it so the event took place over lunchtime," Leonard explained. "Employees were able to grab lunch, listen to the presentation, do the kit assembly, and still be done in time for their 1pm meeting. It was a way for us to involve people who may not be able to take that much time out of their day, and a terrific way for us to drive overall participation in our Impact Week."

Another example of this kind of in-office volunteer event is offered by The Pack Shack, which creates "Feed the Funnel" parties that supply provisions and opportunities for underserved communities. Meals packed at Feed the Funnel parties are donated free of charge to local organizations, such as food banks and food pantries, for them to distribute to people and/or other organizations in their area.

On average, Pack Shack says that 30-40 people can pack 10,000 meals in just 2 hours, and they request that organizations set minimum goals to pack 5,000 to 10,000 meals, depending upon the location. Whether it's team building, holiday parties or a volunteer opportunity for trapped employees - any occasion can be turned into an on-site party for good.

Even if you're not working with an organization that's formally dedicated to facilitating volunteering parties, companies can create volunteering drives where all employees contribute donations but a team of on-site volunteers helps sort or create donation sets (like stuffed backpacks for local schools or kits for local homeless shelters.) Companies can also offer virtual projects where teams of employees gather in a conference room to collaborate on more self-directed projects, like creating cards for troops as Veterans and Memorial Days approach, or designing holiday cards for children at the local hospital or seniors at a local senior center. You can also offer specific opportunities for special interest groups of on-site employees, like encouraging the knitters amongst your team to make scarves for the homeless.

Learn 2 more ways that volunteering can be easy and convenient for your employees. Read our free eBook about In-Office Volunteering.