| Sep 8, 2022

Creating a Culture of Volunteerism at Your Company

Volunteering can be a way of embracing your hobbies and passions. If we, as socially responsible companies, can introduce our teams to this idea, we can create a wave of change in our communities.

Volunteering can build a stronger sense of teamwork, unity, and purpose throughout your company. Yet, many leaders aren’t sure where to start when fostering a culture of volunteerism at scale. 

In truth, enriching your corporate culture takes more than establishing a volunteer program and incentives — it means showcasing an enthusiastic, passionate, and personal commitment to volunteerism from the top down. 

What’s the current appetite?

Before companies start making big moves and trying to spark interest in volunteering, it’s essential that your team steps back and spends some time evaluating what the current culture around volunteering is like in your organization.

You must ask questions like: Is volunteering already happening? Is it only happening amongst a certain population? Is there a program in place to support them? If there is, why isn’t that program driving more engagement? In most cases, there simply isn’t enough awareness or high-level support to give it momentum.

Cultural changes begin at the top, meaning executives and managers must lead by example. Executives have the power to reinforce the belief that volunteering, giving back, and supporting employee passions are all important to the company. Even those as high-level as the CEO should be cementing these notions regularly. 

Once you’ve completed your evaluation, you’ll be able to identify a target group of active volunteers who can help you refine, invigorate, and promote a program that lasts. 

Bring Your Whole Self to Work

Allowing people to volunteer in meaningful ways will not only get more people interested in volunteering, but it will also allow employees to bring their whole selves to work. Encouraging this can lead to employees becoming more impassioned about the company and bring more fulfillment to their lives as a whole.

Volunteerism gives your employees the potential to immerse themselves in new cultures, causes, and communities outside of work without taking away from their personal time. As a result, your employees can invest in self-development while giving back to the community and taking a much-needed mental wellness break simultaneously.

As part of our Futuremakers program at my company, we encourage our employees to use their volunteer hours to align with their passions. Oftentimes, this manifests itself in the form of charity runs or bike rides, allowing them to support a cause they care about while working toward personal goals.

In the office, volunteer programs also give a sense of ownership to employees, helping them embrace and exercise teamwork, unity, and shared interests. In turn, volunteering can foster new friendships inside and outside the workplace, which feeds back into a healthy and balanced company culture. 

To say our employees are passionate about volunteering is an understatement. Combined, my company’s employees volunteered 36,668 days last year, equivalent to $11.4 million in non-cash contributions to our community. Some 90% of our employees said they had strengthened relationships with colleagues through volunteering activities and another 85% said they had acquired new skills. 


Overcoming challenges

There will always be people who just want to clock in and clock out, but most people will jump at the opportunity to get out of the office and give back to the community. If you find that your organization is struggling to find the latter group, there are a number of challenges that could be standing in your way. Maybe your employees don’t know where to find opportunities, perhaps they’re nervous to show up at a charity by themselves, or they could simply not realize all the good things that come out of giving away an afternoon. 

Ultimately, the most attractive way to build interest in volunteering is to bring everyone together and organize team days. Remove all barriers and make things so easy that all your employees have to do is show up and let the dopamine rush take care of the rest.

By creating bite-sized volunteering opportunities that your company organizes, followed by a short get-together for snacks and socializing amongst your team, you’ll be able to overcome many of the challenges that stand in the way of employees pursuing volunteer opportunities on their own.  

Once you’ve piqued your team’s interest in volunteering, that’s when you need to start pushing your company’s programs. Talk to managers and ensure they’re utilizing the programs and talking about their experiences. Talk to employees and ensure they know when they can volunteer and how often. Promote your company’s group outings and encourage employees to invite their work friends to come along.

With small and consistent advances, you will start to see your company’s culture transform as your employees embrace the professional, personal, and social benefits of giving back to the community. 

More and more, employees are seeking companies fully equipped to support their personal goals just as much as their professional growth. Given volunteerism’s multi-faceted benefits, weaving such opportunities into the workplace is fundamental in developing a work culture that can attract, retain, and continuously enthuse your best talent.

Valerie Pholpituke
Executive Author

Regional Head, Community Impact & Engagement, US & Americas, Standard Chartered Bank

Valerie Pholpituke is the Head of Community Impact & Engagement for the Americas at Standard Chartered. view profile


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