If you’re in HR, you’re probably juggling a bunch of crises right now.
For one, most companies still haven’t totally figured out the most effective way to balance remote and in-person work. Some employees want WFH 100% of the time, some want the opposite, and some want something in between.
Two, your employees and customers expect you to respond to a vast array of current events, from the war in Ukraine to climate change to local elections. And every time, you’ve got to craft a balanced response that demonstrates your values without alienating those who disagree.
Oh, and we’re in the beginning of a market downturn that might become a recession. Rising interest rates, commodity prices, and inflation—along with geopolitical instability in a million different places—are forcing startup valuations to fall, VCs to hoard their cash, and companies to cut costs and even lay off workers.
And in the midst of all this, you’re expected to continue providing your employees with a sense of meaning and belonging and security and growth and trust and engagement (to mention a few things).
So the question is how to keep employees happy on a tight budget during tough times.
And there’s a simple answer: skill-based volunteering. It’ll help you:
Allow me to explain.
Skill-based volunteering: do well by doing good
Skill-based volunteering is a win-win-win-win for your company, your employees, your customers, and your community.
When you provide your employees with opportunities to use their skills for good causes, you’re actually investing in their careers. You’re giving them a chance to sharpen their abilities and develop a portfolio of work beyond their routine activities. In turn, you earn their trust and loyalty.
In fact, “93% of employees who volunteer through their company report being happy with their employer” (Harvard Business Review).
As your employees gain new skills, develop deeper expertise, and improve upon their valuable talents, they’ll grow both personally and professionally. And when your customers see all the good you’re doing, they’ll become more loyal too.
It goes without saying that the nonprofits you help through skill-based volunteering—and most importantly, the communities they serve—will benefit enormously from corporate professionals giving their time to solve complex problems.
Earn your employees’ trust and loyalty
When it comes to employee experience, data is king. So let’s take a look at the facts.
Studies show that 78% of managers and 79% of employees agree that volunteering improves their personal and professional skills (Human Resource Management Review).
Four out of every 5 employees feel that volunteering strengthens their interpersonal and professional skills. Interesting, right? Think about what that means for your organization.
During this ridiculously competitive time, when companies are battling to hold on to every one of their employees, volunteering is a secret weapon. It provides your employees with a sense of meaning and a reason to be proud of working with you. Even the most conservative firms, like Moody’s, are using this innovative approach:
“Close to 100% [of Moody’s employees] said they found [volunteering] to be rewarding or very rewarding. And 67% built relationships with colleagues they didn’t usually work with” (Harvard Business Review).
This is exactly what you need to attract and retain top talent: rewarding experiences, opportunities to make new connections, and a clear path of skill development.
Develop your employees’ personal and professional skills
Skill-based volunteering is the most cost-effective and time-efficient way to teach your employees new skills.
Rather than investing in expensive courses, retreats, or coaching sessions that end with no tangible results, you could provide employees with project-based experiential learning in the form of volunteering. There’s a reason that the richest firms have adopted this approach:
“The Chief Executives for Corporate Purpose—a global coalition of multibillion-dollar companies—reports that 66% of its member firms offered paid-time-off volunteer programs in 2019” (Harvard Business Review).
This also saves HR managers a great deal of time. Employees can arrange projects for themselves and run the show without your help. It’s their job to build a long-term, productive relationship with the nonprofit.
Most importantly, skill-based volunteering activities can be done remotely about 80% of the time. They’re more accessible to employees with physical disabilities because there’s no transportation involved. And because these projects can be split up across several weeks or months, it’s easy to integrate these activities into a work routine.
“Among the array of corporate citizenship programs, skills-based volunteerism is the most rapidly growing, with more than 50% of companies now channeling the talents of their employees to nonprofit organizations” (Stanford Social Innovation Review).
Lead the CSR conversation in your industry
When skilled corporate employees take time out of their busy schedules to volunteer, they set a good example for everyone around them.
Think about it like this: despite the high pressure, complex tasks, and lofty KPIs they face at work, they’re setting a respectable portion of their time for nonprofits that need help. It’s admirable and it sets the tone for your industry.
This is the perfect opportunity to show your competitors that you’re putting your resources to good use and show the world that you’re committed to helping nonprofits.
And boy, do nonprofits need your help! Nonprofits have much smaller budgets for all kinds of services that businesses take for granted, from strategy consulting to graphic design. In fact, businesses spend ten times the amount on overhead that nonprofits do, on average:
“The average nonprofit organization spends just 2% of its organizational budget on overhead, compared with the average business that spends 20% on overhead” (Stanford Social Innovation Review).
Yet a little work goes a very long way. Nonprofits don’t need your employees on speed dial—a couple hours each quarter can do wonders. Think of your employees as “backup experts” who can solve specific problems using their niche skills in tiny, concentrated sprints (Stanford Social Innovation Review).
Six remote, skill-based activities you can do right now
We’ve put together a list of 6 volunteering projects with nonprofits in the USA and the UK that you can start immediately, and they’re all 100% remote.
Become a Lecturer for refugees looking to upgrade their skills.
Connection Hub is working toward a world in which nobody is denied an education due to war, conflict, or social injustice. Their mission is to provide refugees, asylum seekers, and displaced persons with quality education, skills training, and employment opportunities in Greece and the UK. They’re looking for Lecturers across a variety of disciplines to empower their students to pursue meaningful employment opportunities.
Advocate for Black women and girls as a Social Media Strategist.
Ama Life Initiatives provides greater access to education, healthcare, employment, and social opportunities for Black women and girls in the USA. Their mission is to empower their community through social connections and practical tools. They’re looking for a Social Media Strategist to manage their Facebook and LinkedIn pages.
Support youth at risk as a Graphic Designer.
LifeTies provides vulnerable youth with the tools they need to get back on track. Their youth may be Queer, have behavioral challenges, be pregnant or parenting, be experiencing homelessness, or be in the juvenile justice system. They’re looking for a Graphic Designer to create posters for a fundraising event this summer.
Provide cancer patients with dignified healthcare as an E-Commerce Manager.
One out of every 2 people in Sussex will develop cancer at some point in their life. The Sussex Cancer Fund helps their county’s cancer patients live more dignified lives by providing them with medical equipment, social support, care facilities, and research funding. They’re looking for an E-Commerce Manager to oversee sales of donated items at their shop.
Help incarcerated people heal from trauma as a Strategic Planner.
Prison Writes is a therapeutic writing program for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people. Their instructors view writing as a form of rehabilitation, advocacy, and education for those that have suffered the trauma of incarceration. They’re looking for a Strategic Planner to help them make important decisions across a variety of projects.
Empower youth to achieve their dreams as an Academic Tutor.
The Access Project supports disadvantaged youth on their journey toward a university education. Their tutors help youth achieve the grades they deserve, fulfill their potential, and build the confidence they need to succeed. They’re looking for Academic Tutors to support high schoolers for 1 hour each week during the coming academic year.
Don’t fall behind.
The Society for Human Resource Management reports that 47% of U.S. companies offered community volunteer programs in 2018. Those companies know that if they fail to provide employees with volunteer opportunities, their employee retention rate will plummet.
That’s because the vast majority of your employees, from Baby Boomers to Zoomers, care about social impact.
77% of respondents in a recent study reported that a company’s commitment to social issues is an important factor when looking for a job (Harvard Business Review).
When over three quarters of your employees care about social impact, you can be sure that this important issue transcends generational differences.
There’s only 1 choice left to make: will you stand idly by while your competitors lead the conversation around skill-based volunteering and CSR, or will you lead it yourself?
The Promise of Skills-Based Volunteering, Stanford Social Innovation Review
Skills-based volunteering: A systematic literature review of the intersection of skills and employee volunteering, Human Resource Management Review
Reimagine Your Corporate Volunteer Program, Harvard Business Review
Volunteer Programs That Employees Can Get Excited About, Harvard Business Review
Strengthen Your Workforce Through Volunteer Programs, Harvard Business Review