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Author's profile photo Brittany Lothe

The Ideal Volunteer Experience?

Can a done in a day project really have lasting impact?

Can employee skills really align to support team building?

What about the 90% of employees who tell us that they would prefer to get their hands dirty during corporate led volunteer experiences, as opposed to leverage their expertise?

It’s about this time every year as SAP Month of Service 2012 wraps up the question of the “Ideal Employee Volunteer Experience” is raised.

How we do balance the interests of employees, a drive to engage as many employee volunteers as possible and a desire to leverage employee skills, create lasting impact and align to certain areas of focus?  Admitedly, the ingredients of an ideal volunteer experience can be a balancing act and ensure that the CSR team of any company earns their salary for the day!

So, what is the sweet spot to maximize benefit to employees, the corporation and the community? Well, this depends are corporate culture and what your volunteer program is trying to achieve. But, a continuum of engagement – from microvolunteering to team volunteering to skills based – is one option to consider.


Micro-volunteering — volunteer service that you can do from your desk in small bits of time – was born of two realities: that many people with valuable skills spend a lot of time at their desks and that nonprofits are in great need of those skills, but can’t easily access them or make use of them.  It’s about convenience, requires limited training, and allows for collaboration via a crowdsourced model with likeminded volunteers. High-impact, high-efficiency do-gooding in the digital age!

Team Volunteering

Never underestimate the power of building a house or playground with your colleagues. In my experience, I have learned more about my colleagues while volunteering than I ever could at a team dinner. Executed in a professional and structured way, team volunteering can be a refreshing and unqiue way to explore team dynamic, develop a fresh approach to problem solving, improve communication and making a difference.

Skills Based Volunteering

Skills based volunteering utilizes a specific skills and professional expertise of volunteers. Often the engagements involve a longer commitment but that’s not always the case. For example, at SAP, our Social Sabbatical which is a skills based assignment for high potential employees, is 19 intense days.  The benefits of skills based volunteering are immense. For the employee, leadership and skll development can occur. For the corporatation, brand awarenecess can be built and employee loyalty and productity can be incldeased. And, last but certainly not least the community partner receives a skilled and talented volunteer pool that can bring direct cost savings while proving qualifitable social impact.

There’s no silver bullet to how corporate volunteer programs should be established and run. But what is a clear trend is a mix of offerings that support social investment goals, align to culture, engage a variety of people, interests and focus on leveraging the skill sets of employees can offer both business and social impact at a time when the need in our communities in greater than ever.

Happy volunteering!

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      Author's profile photo Jason Lax
      Jason Lax

      Any kind of volunteering is better than none. I also prefer a team volunteering activity to a team dinner.

      About skills based volunteering, there are some really interesting projects that skilled colleagues can get involved in such as DataKind that matches data scientists with big data problems.

      Author's profile photo Brittany Lothe
      Brittany Lothe
      Blog Post Author

      I fully agree, Jason! Thanks for sharing info on DataKind. I will check it out!