Many companies offer employees some kind of volunteer opportunity, but it’s often a single day of volunteering or raising money for charities. 

We’ve learned a lot over the years about how VTO impacts our workforce and the community. We’re happy to share our expertise and best practices here. 

Businesses on Team Earth live their values by fixing what’s broken. Equal access, opportunities, and rights for everyone. When we all strive to be active allies, we work toward a more equal, just, and inclusive world. 

According to Jamie Olsen, senior director of Citizen Philanthropy at Salesforce, about 75% of the company’s 73,000-person global workforce participates in the VTO program, with about 25% using the whole 56-hour allotment. 

“These are the types of programs that people want and that are attracting them to companies right now,” she said. “They better the community. They improve people’s happiness. They make them feel more engaged when they are sitting at their desk.” 

Conversely, companies that create aspirational workplaces foster a culture of inclusion, purpose, listening, caring and empathy. 

Salesforce has donated more than $530 million and 7.3 million hours since our founding. The company might be an outlier in the resources it devotes to VTO programs — Olsen’s team, for example, has 25 people dedicated to it — but there are steps that you can take to establish your own VTO initiatives. Some tips:

Build volunteer engagement programs that align with your strategic focus areas or what your business focuses on. While employees should be free to volunteer however they choose, try to steer them toward opportunities where you’re already making a financial commitment. Try to pair employees with organizations that support them. 

Think about your specific goals rather than throwing time or money at any random problem. What change do you want to affect, and where can you have the biggest impact? Formalize your goals in writing, and make sure all employees are aware of them and how they can participate. Doing so will give everyone something to rally around. 

Think several steps ahead, considering all the different factors that might come into play. For example, Salesforce used to award employees who hit certain VTO milestones with donations to their cause, with no cap. When that became unsustainable, we reworked the programs while still recognizing the employee’s efforts.  

At Salesforce, employees who hit at least 7 milestones — repeat volunteer engagements, donating skills, joining a board, organizing a team event, etc. — are entered into a lottery for a grant to an eligible organization of their choice. That’s in addition to standard company matches to eligible organizations. 

Consider how your focus areas come to life globally. For example, in the U.S., Salesforce’s workforce development initiatives target 18-to-24-year-olds. But in Japan, their target demographic skews older. “It’s important to allow your local teams to respond to local needs while still laddering up to the broader corporate story,” said Olsen.

It’s easier to measure the impact of corporate giving for the recipients than it is to measure the impact of VTO on employee engagement and morale. How does Salesforce measure employee impact? Olsen’s team collects survey data to better understand how employees are inspired to connect with the community in meaningful and sustainable ways. 

“We also look at participation in our programs, and how many people are hitting each of the impact milestones,” Olsen said. “Once per quarter, employees who hit certain thresholds are entered into a lottery for a grant. This keeps them incentivized, and makes them feel recognized and valued for the different ways they’re giving.”

She said 13,500 employees have hit at least seven impact milestones. 

You and your business have the power to enact real change for your employees, the community, and the world. Business really is the greatest platform for change.

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