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Delivered on Wednesdays, GivingForce Weekly brings together the most important stories of the week on the subject of CSR, Corporate Citizenship and business as as force for good. Sign up here to stay connected. 

Employee volunteering programmes are common place these days, but what does it take to make of success of them? This article is the first in the mini-series, 5 Steps to a Successful Employee Volunteering Programme.

A good employee volunteering program can be grounded in a solid and purposeful partnership with a specific charity, but it doesn’t have to be. Employee happiness and retention can also benefit from granting more freedom in how employees get to allocate their volunteering allowance.

Building an employee volunteering program with a cause can be a great way to complement your organisation’s purpose. For example, British Gas — Britain’s largest energy supplier and client of GivingForce — has built a purposeful volunteering campaign around their partnership with housing charity Shelter.

However, it is by no means necessary to affiliate your organisation with a bigger cause. On the contrary, being seen as appropriating a cause for your own promotion can be potentially damaging (see Pepsi’s recent media backlash for their advert based on civil-rights movements).

So do you need a cause?

There’s no single or simple answer but luckily there is a simple solution that can often get overlooked: ask your employees!

Reach out to your employees through a survey or questionnaire to find out about existing community involvement. Find out what causes your employees care about before you build or refine your volunteering program.

While it’s fantastic for a company to rally its employees around a shared cause, employees may be more engaged if they have the freedom to choose their own projects. If your employees are already heavily engaged in their local communities and passionate about what they do, that’s great. You should maintain that freedom for them to continue doing what they love.

GivingForce has worked with successful volunteering campaigns that gave employees full freedom to decide how they want to spend their volunteering days, as well as with campaigns that were successfully built around a cause. Realistically, most companies will choose a combination of the two.

Either way, figuring out which approach best fits the identity and culture of an organisation is a crucial first step in setting up any successful volunteer program.

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