Our company kicked off a new employee benefit in 2014; we added 8 hours of paid time off to pursue volunteer opportunities and/or perform community service. We call it a ‘Service Day’. We were excited to promote the opportunity to give back within the communities which we serve and to acknowledge our company’s founder, Bob Burbidge, and his personal commitment to philanthropic activities.
Here we are in the final weeks of the year and only 25% of our staff has had the chance to use their service day. Why is this so difficult? Although the program is off to a slow start, it certainly isn’t due to low interest from our staff. It’s more difficult than one would think.
This is what we’ve learned along the way;
1. Provide information and resources for volunteer activities. This is likely the most important step once you’ve committed to providing a service day. While most welcomed the opportunity to take a day and do something for others many of us struggled with finding the right activity. Do some homework and provide information on organizations within your community that welcome periodic volunteers.
2. Don’t limit the type of service activity. It’s best to keep your definition of service as broad as possible and allow your staff to define how and where they want to volunteer their time. No need to limit the activity to a formal non-profit organization – the day of service could be as simple as helping an elderly neighbor with odd household jobs.
3. Allow group activities. Let’s face it – some people are just more comfortable doing things in a group than on their own. Encourage your staff to organize activities in small groups and enjoy some team building while volunteering.
4. Involve others. We had several staff members volunteer for organizations that needed donations of food, personal items, or even gently used toys. It was fun to see the collection boxes in our office where we could all contribute a little towards a team member’s day of service.
5. Share the individual experiences. Provide an outlet for your staff to share their service day experience with the company. This is my favorite part. Hearing what others did on their service day is always a ‘feel-good’ moment and also helps in the sharing of ideas for future or on-going volunteer opportunities.
Most of all, don’t give up if your service day program is off to a slow start. It just takes time. Having just completed my own service day, I am even more committed to promoting volunteerism within the company. For me it was invaluable to be given the gift of time to then turn around and give that time to someone else. In my case it was Meals on Wheels, see photo above. I strongly recommend to add them to your list of volunteer options for your Service Day program!
For more information on implementing employer-sponsored volunteer programs, please reach out to Genesis HR Solutions at AskUs@genesishrsolutions.com or 800-367-8367.
Genesis HR Solutions is the premier PEO provider for Massachusetts based businesses.