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RESEARCH BRIEF: How to get the most out of long-term corporate volunteering


Takeaway: Companies continue to invest in employee volunteerism. This study found that—in addition to the social good achieved by these programs—given the presence of certain characteristics (e.g., utilization of professional skills; sufficient support and resources throughout the project), long-term volunteering will create benefits for the company and its employees, in the form of increased employee engagement, skill development, and independent volunteering.

Suggested audience: Top management, managers, corporate citizenship managers and professionals, particularly those involved in employee volunteerism

Researchers sought to determine what conditions help maximize the benefits of corporate volunteerism for the company, employees, and non-profit partners when certain conditions were met—such as sufficient support and resources provided by the non-profit partner and the perceived impact and importance of the assignment.  The study found benefits to the employee and company, including increased employee engagement, the development of skills that could be applied to an employee’s full-time job, and continued volunteering independent of company-sponsored programs.

Researchers surveyed employees 30 days into a volunteer assignment, at the end of an assignment, and six months following its completion. Non-profit partner managers and the company’s line managers also evaluated employees six months after the completion of an assignment. Sixty percent of employee participants had international assignments, primarily in the United States, Canada, or Africa.

Key findings:

  • The researchers found that employee volunteering assignments provide the most value when:
    • The employees volunteer in a country other than the one in which they reside.
    • The volunteers perceive that their efforts contribute to the non-profit partner’s functioning in a meaningful way.
    • The volunteers possess and utilize professional skills.
    • The assignment offers opportunities for volunteers to develop skills that can be applied in their full-time job.
    • The non-profit partner has sufficient resources to support and sustain the project.

Employee engagement

  • Employees were more engaged in their full-time position after the assignment ended when all of the following conditions existed during the volunteer assignment:
    • The employee volunteers perceived the project to be meaningful to the NGO.
    • The NGO has sufficient resources to support and sustain the volunteers’ project.            
    • Employees believe they are supported socially during their assignment (‘safe environment’).

Skill development and independent volunteering

  • Employee volunteers who believed that their project was meaningful to the NGO were more likely to develop skills that could be applied in their business units and offer a fresh perspective in their work after the assignment completion.
  • Employee volunteers who developed skills during their assignment were more likely to volunteer on their own after their assignment was completed, outside of programs that require company resources.

Impact on NGO’s project sustainability

  • Volunteers who applied a variety of their professional skills in their assignment had a significant positive impact on the NGO’s project sustainability.

Keywords: employee, employee engagement, global, professional development, volunteering, volunteerism, skill based volunteering

If citing please refer to the original article: Caligiuri, P., Mencin, A., & Jiang, K. (2013). Win-win-win: The influence of company-sponsored volunteerism programs on employees, NGOs, and business units. Personnel Psychology, 66 (4), 825-860.

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