Development Crossing

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

The Key to Great Corporate Volunteering

Every once in awhile you come across fantastic examples of great Corporate Volunteering programs. They’re great because they manage to achieve strategic alignment between the company’s CSR approach and the company’s brand. They’re great because they can boast high levels of participation from enthusiastic employees, as well as a real sense of camaraderie across all levels of the company. And most importantly, they’re great because they have figured out how to retain - even increase - employee interest year after year.

The “FedEx Cares” program began in 2005, and is now operating in 45 cities around the world. While this fantastic growth is due partly to strategic alignment, it is also due, impressively, to passionate employee interest. "We have the expertise and we have the logistics, but it's our employees telling us, “We want to do this.” FedEx spokesman Matt Ceniceros said. (the full story on

The projects involve employees at all levels. Amy Langston is Vice President of hub day/weekend operations at FedEx. As she volunteered alongside 50 other FedEx employees in their purple shirts at the Memphis Food Bank, she looked around and commented on the huge range of skills represented there. "Our folks know all about taping and sorting, and we've got folks here who could drive the forklifts." It just makes sense.

And what makes sense, makes for an effective program (view video).

Programs that provide easy entry and participation are key to successful Corporate Volunteering. Projects like collecting and sorting food, cleaning up garbage, and construction allow for large group participation with all types of people. This type of work creates a level playing field where every contribution holds equal weight. Whether you’re on the maintenance crew or a member of the executive team with a corner office, when you’re sorting food, everyone is the same. Realizing your “sameness” offers a sense of belonging, contribution and personal value. Metrics can’t measure the value of that kind of thing.

I should add a word of caution: when considering the long term success of the Employee Volunteer Program, know that only offering “easy entry” projects will have quickly diminishing returns. Businesses and NPOs have to collaborate to offer increasingly demanding roles to those employees who want to invest deeper in the volunteer experience. According to a study of key findings by the Corporation for National Community Service in the USA, those engaged in general labour type volunteer experiences are the least likely to volunteer the next year (55.6%). Conversely, those who are actively involved in professional or management volunteer roles are most likely to show up the next year (74.8%). That means that if your Corporate Volunteering program doesn’t allow for employees to grow in their contribution, at least half of them will likely lose interest over the years.

Good employer sponsored volunteer programs will offer a low threshold to access the program, but then continue to offer roles requiring increasing commitments. This way, your employees are always met at their Highest Level of Contribution.

For a more detailed discussion of how to go about creating a great volunteer experience, follow this link.

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