From Google and Ben & Jerry’s to LEGO and Levi Strauss, there’s been monumental shift in recent years towards ‘doing good’ in business. Rather than simply providing primary products and services to turn a profit, more companies than ever before are beginning to step back, assess their impact on the world around them, and integrate philanthropic work into their company ethos.
Whether you’re a small startup or a large corporation, the idea remains the same: you can do well by doing good. In other words, by giving your employees the opportunity to volunteer for charities and non-profits during working hours, you’re not only giving back to the community and environment, but you’re developing your team’s skillsets, strengthening trust, increasing collaboration among colleagues and boosting morale – all the while improving your brand’s reputation.
Here are seven simple steps to get started:
1) Establish a Set of Volunteering Aims & Listen to Your Employees
Before you launch into setting up partnerships with charities and non-profits, it's important to take the time to think about what your organisation wants to achieve from it. Do you want to do one off fundraising events or create an ongoing partnership with a particular charity? Are you aiming to provide opportunities for your employees to get involved in existing events or aiming to start a new initiative?
Find out what your employees predispositions and motives are to volunteer. What do they want to gain from the experience? Whether that's broadening their skillset, improving their relationships with colleagues outside of the office environment, being a part of something productive and meaningful – or all the above! – it's important to be guided by them. This way, they're more likely to find the whole experience positive, worthwhile and enjoyable.
Put in place a partnership that they perceive as worthwhile and you'll establish a sense of purpose in your team – a productive mindset that is likely to impact positively on performance at work. Set up a meeting so you can bounce volunteering ideas between the team and create a list of aims that will help to guide the direction you take.
Here at Workspace we have a charity committee with representatives from each department to make sure the whole organisation can get involved, quarterly meetings, e-mail updates and an events calendar keep us on track for the year.
A group of 10 Workspace volunteers build a community garden for the most sustainable building in London.
2) Set Up a Volunteering Partnership
Once you've established the type of charity you'll be supporting, the next step is to put it into action. As the employer, you could research and approach local charities to set up a regular volunteering partnership. Creating a successful long-term partnership locally can be hugely rewarding for both employees and the charity you choose to support. If this sounds overwhelming, start small and build up, think about what’s viable for your company now and what you might be able to do over the next few months. Whether it’s a one-off fundraising event, or a day per month in the diary to help with existing initiatives, be clear on what’s realistic for your organisation and try to stick to it. It’s important that the charity you choose to support aligns with your company’s mission and values, this makes it more likely to be successful in the long run.
3) Spread the Word
Make it clear when, where, and how your employees can get involved: send out emails, create posters, make announcements in meetings. This will increase the likelihood that you'll get lots of people signing up. Make sure the charity your supporting or fundraising for is promoting too, the more of a buzz you can create around volunteering opportunities, the more fun it will be for everybody involved. Make sure there are open channels for communication, so you can get feedback from your employees too including what worked, what they enjoyed or what could be improved next time.
Breast Cancer Care based at Chester House in Kennington Park rehearsing for its annual fundraiser, read more about Breast Cancer Care and ‘The Show’ here.
4) Provide Skill-Based Opportunities
Volunteering can be a great opportunity to develop new skills. A new environment and new challenges will progress your employees in different ways, encouraging them to step out of their comfort zone. Let your employees choose the skills they wish to develop and select appropriate charity work to fit in with areas they would like to learn more about or improve on. In turn, you'll see them grow as an individual, whether these skills can be applied to their day-to-day job or not.
A team of Workspace employee’s training for AHOY’s charity row down the Thames in support of its life changing work with young people.
5) Encourage Teamwork
Getting involved in projects outside of the office provides opportunities for your team to connect with each other on a completely different level. It's important to encourage people to leave their work role behind to bring the team closer together. Individuals from different backgrounds and generations working together on something new can make for new friendships, strengthened feelings of trust and empathy, and a tighter team back in the office.
The XLP bus visiting Workspace for the day, every week this bus travels to 17 inner-London estates, targeting areas where there are little or no youth work facilities, we were pleased to support XLP as one of our official charity partners.
6) Provide Paid Time Off
An effective way to incentivise your employees is to provide paid time off for voluntary work. You could create a yearly allowance for paid time off as well as logistical support such as transportation and equipment costs. If you can support this, employees will have a clear path to getting involved, with a level of support that will enable their participation to be sustained.
Workspace employees on a white water rafting adventure raising money for XLP.
7) Celebrate and Reward Achievements
Don't forget to celebrate what you have achieved. Documenting your volunteering programme via social media and internal email updates can boost morale and pride among employees. If you have annual awards for your employees, why not create one to recognise employees who really input into your new volunteering programme. Volunteering will benefit your local community, can be great fun and provides proven benefits for employee satisfaction so what better time to start than National Volunteers Week.
At Workspace we believe in Doing the Right Thing, be that getting involved with World Kindness Day or celebrating our most sustainable businesses that call one of our 70 locations across London home.
If you’d like to join our inspiring community, why not get in touch? Or call 0203 930 4665 to book a viewing of one of our buildings.