Making Employee Volunteering Easier May Undermine Long-Term Interest in Participation

Sep 11, 2020 2:00 PM ET
Most of the clients we’ve worked with over the past decade have asked the same question: “How can we make it easier for our people to volunteer?”  It’s easy to see why lowering the bar to getting involved in employee volunteering is the apparent solution. Especially as the number one complaint among employees who do not volunteer is the perception of a lack of time, leading managers of these programs to the immediate question, “How can we make it easier to participate?” Meaning, how can we ask for less time and effort, so participation is not seen as a daunting contribution by the employee. According to the research, this question leads to erroneous conclusions
It is important to remove the ‘friction points’ that demotivate employees when considering whether to sign up to volunteer. Compelling invitations with consistent opportunities are key. So is the ability to find volunteering events that resonate with the employee’s values. Yet reducing potential barriers to getting involved does not speak to the single most important factor in increasing motivation.  
The key elements of highly motivating experiences are identity and effort which lead to meaningful engagement. An employee volunteering program needs to account for the reality that we are all “strongly motivated by identity, the need for recognition, a sense of accomplishment and feeling of creation” (Dan Ariley).