Purpose through volunteering: investing where it matters

Workplace volunteer initiatives aren’t just about giving back to the community; they should also be about engaging the workforce and helping them derive greater meaning from their work.

The pandemic has eroded much of what has constituted a normal workplace. We now see a paradigm shift: Individuals are seeking work that brings purpose. People are choosing to spend their time working on projects that are of personal interest to them or have a broader impact on society.

There has never a more pressing time than the present to align your charitable initiatives with your employees’ interests. The new generation of workers that is Gen Z and the COVID-19 pandemic have accelerated the redefinition of meaning in one’s work.

While many employers already sponsor charitable initiatives, these programs aren’t always aligned to employees’ interests. As a result, these programs may not fully inspire and, so, have little impact on employee engagement.

And achieving this balance – maximising your corporate volunteer program while engaging employees – does require a strategic lens and a whole lot of common sense.


Even if you’ve had charitable workplace initiatives in place for a long time, your employees may not feel strongly about the causes you support, which prevents your organisation from experiencing all the possible benefits of giving back. Have you asked employees which charities or causes truly resonate with them or their families? Could you find commonalities between what employees are looking for with organisational goals?

Maximise charitable programs

Charitable programs can yield positive workplace results. If from your communications, you learn your employees are interested in volunteering in particular areas, such policies may be a valuable perk and an important tool for retention, even reward and recognition.

You may wish to explore charitable initiatives as team-building opportunities. This is advantageous on two fronts: One, it brings people with like-minded causes together, forging meaningful connections in the workplace. Two, with managers and department heads’ buy-in, your charitable programs may help strengthen teams.

Three steps to “The How”

Giving each employee time to volunteer is important. To generate the desired results for employee and employer, are three aspects to consider.

First, each organization must decide how much time will be allotted for volunteer hours. Will your corporate volunteer program offer paid or unpaid time off for volunteering hours? Be sure to think about potential wage and hour implications. Consider capping the paid time off to a certain number of hours per year because this allows program longevity – it does have to keep within the company budget for it to operate yearly and bring the benefits.

Second, consider how volunteer time will be tracked and validated, particularly for paid time off. An online payroll system that includes volunteer hours can be a good way to manage this.

Third and lastly, organisations should consistently evaluate how volunteering programs are engaging employees. Are you providing more than a paycheck, and creating purposeful opportunities for employees?

Create a written policy for your workforce that addresses how your workplace volunteer initiatives work, educates employees about the new benefit and encourages them to start thinking about the causes they believe in.

I’m a big believer in this: Offering employees a chance to do the work they love and pursue the causes they believe in brings out their best.