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10 Apr. 2018 | Comments (0)

For years, “more” and “better” have been the shorthand goals of the volunteerism movement. Inspiring more people to volunteer and finding opportunities for that support to be of the most value to communities and causes has been the mission. During National Volunteer Week (April 15-21), we celebrate the impact of volunteer service here in the U.S., and the power of changemakers to come together to tackle tough challenges and build stronger, more vibrant communities. It provides a great opportunity to check in on the progress of corporate volunteering efforts against those “more and better” metrics and explore a few emerging opportunities.


The number of companies reporting volunteering programs through surveys like Giving in Numbers: 2017 Edition (CECP, in association with The Conference Board), or the 2017 Civic 50 (Points of Light) now exceeds 82 percent. This steady rise of volunteer programs has benefits for communities and for the employees who take advantage of these opportunities.

Meanwhile, the same surveys have found the number of employees volunteering with their companies has remained relatively static over the last several years, hovering between 21 percent and 26 percent of employees. Whereas some suggest that these percentages denote mature programs, there are plenty of indicators that suggest that companies can regularly achieve 30-40 percent participation rates when they set goals, measure performance, and offer incentives.

Just ask Roger Hancock, manager of community affairs at CSAA Insurance Group (a AAA insurer), whose passionate championing of volunteerism has achieved a 99 percent participation rate. His creative use of internal and external communications, incentives (including paid time off for volunteering), and enthusiasm now have academic rigor to back up his theory of excellence. In the peer-reviewed Journal of Corporate Citizenship, Benjamin Lough and Yvonne Siu Turner reviewed Civic 50 data from the last five years and found that paid time off for volunteering was the leading driver of increased participation rates.

Volunteering incentives and measurement practices are on the rise. For example, 64 percent of Civic 50 companies offered paid  time off for employees to volunteer at nonprofits of their choice, sending the message that the social causes employees care about are important to companies and recognizing that it is important to provide employees a choice when it comes to offering them opportunities to volunteer. `

Additionally, 62 percent of Civic 50 companies included community engagement in performance reviews in 2017, compared with 50 percent in 2016. Considering civic engagement in employee performance reviews is a powerful way to communicate the importance a company places on community values and it can encourage employees to lead a civic life.   


While the overall level of volunteering has not increased in the last few years, higher-impact skills-based volunteering continues to grow. Giving in Numbers: 2017 Edition found that 51 percent of companies offer pro-bono service opportunities to leverage the talents of their workforce in the nonprofit sector. Civic 50 data suggests that pro-bono service accounts for more than 20 percent of volunteer hours among the largest U.S. brands. The rate of pro-bono service has been on a steady rise for the last six years. Corporate initiatives like the “Pledge 1%” challenge, Salesforce’s 1:1:1 initiative and the Billion + Change campaign have raised the profile of pro-bono support, which is good for nonprofits, because the value of the skills and talents provided through pro-bono action can be worth five times the value of traditional hands-on volunteering.

What’s ahead?

The time-bound urgency of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offers an amazing platform for companies to connect the impact and outcomes of their volunteer efforts to global problem solving by 2030. The SDGs call for the world to act and offer indicators of success against 17 objectives covering, among other issues, equality, poverty, and water.

Volunteering and working with nonprofit partners to connect outcomes to the SDGs gives companies and employees an important connection to colleagues in other regions and to a global movement. Initiatives like IMPACT2030 are organizing companies to educate employees about the SDGs and to develop methodologies to map volunteer efforts to the goals and success indicators. While that work is being done, companies like UPS and Medtronic are launching creative employee education campaigns, and engaging employees and stakeholders in conversations around the goals and potential solutions to the problems outlined.

The most important pro-bono service for the decade ahead will be to bring the nonprofit sector along for the data revolution. Business is the warehouse for technology talent and innovation, and the nonprofit sector will always struggle to compete—but it cannot be left behind. The future of corporate volunteering needs to include meaningful models for helping nonprofits access, share, analyze, and act on the data that they have and data that the private sector can support. This trend toward data philanthropy will be essential to building the future of effective corporate and nonprofit partnerships.

Points of Light will explore these trends, other research and best practices to equip companies to amplify corporate values and help employees ignite a civic culture at Service Unites 2018.

What does more and better mean for your volunteering at your company?

  • About the Author:Jenny Lawson

    Jenny Lawson

    Jenny Lawson is president for innovation and corporate thought leadership at Points of Light – the world’s largest organization dedicated to volunteer service, which mobilizes millions of …

    Full Bio | More from Jenny Lawson


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