Virtual volunteering lessons learned


Will virtual volunteering continue beyond the pandemic? 

One recent survey says that of those now working from home, 80% would like to continue doing so at least occasionally, with 58% preferring this to become a permanent arrangement. So what’s next for designing, implementing, and tracking employee volunteer programs in a remote setting? In this post, we’ll explore about how KPMG U.S. successfully navigated the uncharted waters of virtual volunteering and tracked its stellar results for employee engagement and loyalty. 

Want to learn more about virtual volunteering? Register for the virtual International Corporate Citizenship Conference on April 26-28 and attend the panel: Virtual volunteering: What’s next?

As one of the largest global professional services firms, KPMG, drives positive, sustainable change for clients, employees, and society at large. The firm’s practice in the United States enjoys a large base of dedicated workers, with 35,000 professionals working in more than 100 offices across all 50 states. These employees define KPMG U.S. and its strong sense of culture, built on core values of integrity, excellence, courage, mutual respect, and doing what matters for a better world. 

Just as they bring passion to their day-to-day work, KPMG U.S. professionals are committed to being active participants in the firm’s community impact programs. As volunteers, many KPMG U.S. employees rally around the firm’s mission to provide equitable access to transformational learning opportunities that nurture talent and enrich lives. KPMG is a signatory of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and aligns its community impact strategy with SDG #4, addressing quality education, which the firm contributes to (or addresses) through long-term programs, on-the-ground partnerships, and strategic collaborations. Recognizing that education is one of the most powerful drivers of economic growth, many KPMG U.S. professionals serve on nonprofit boards that support education, mentor underserved and vulnerable students, and find other ways to contribute their skills to improve education quality. 

The onset of the pandemic reinvigorated these efforts, with 87% of the world’s student population being affected by COVID-19 school closures and vulnerable children with limited or no access to technology experiencing a disproportional impact.5 KPMG quickly joined with other companies as a founding member of UNESCO’s Global Education Commission, which invests resources and expertise around technology, connectivity, and capacity strengthening. In the U.S., KPMG dedicated nearly half of its community impact investment to support lifelong learning in its 2020 fiscal year, supporting more than 300,000 students at more than 3,700 schools. With many U.S.-based professionals now working from home, KPMG’s employee volunteers mobilized quickly to participate in virtual volunteering opportunities to support their communities. As a result, KPMG U.S. employees logged nearly 120,000 volunteer hours in the 2020 fiscal year. 

Just as impressive are the efforts that KPMG U.S. has taken to track the connection between employee engagement and volunteering—keeping true to its firmwide pledge to measure progress and hold itself accountable. The firm’s annual employee engagement survey of 21,000 employees reveals increased engagement scores among professionals who volunteer, with even greater increases among those who contribute more hours. KPMG U.S. professionals who were involved in community impact programs and volunteering also rated firm culture and inclusion and diversity more highly, and were more likely to agree with the statement, “Overall, I would say this is a great place to build my career.” These data points reflect similar cross-industry findings from BCCCC research, and support the mounting evidence that community involvement efforts contribute to employees’ positive feelings about their companies.

Further data suggest that volunteering may have been especially critical for KPMG U.S. professionals during the significant events of 2020. Among a sampling of 1,300 employees, a large majority (81%) participated in virtual volunteering in 2020. Regarding specific crises, 22% said their interest in volunteering has increased due to COVID-19, and 39% said their interest has increased due to the discussion of racial equity. Finally, a whopping 74% viewed volunteerism as an action that contributes to the development of leadership competencies. Research supports that skills-based volunteering, such as the board service and mentoring opportunities KPMG U.S. offers, is an effective way to provide employees with professional development opportunities and may even increase retention.

By staying accountable and delivering on results, KPMG U.S. fulfills its responsibility to its culture and people who define the firm, setting them on the right path to navigate an evolving landscape together. 

“As we look to the future, we must act with urgency, purpose, and stewardship to leave this firm and our communities better than we found them,” says Paul Knopp, chair and chief executive officer, KPMG U.S. “Our actions are driven today by our vision of a better world tomorrow—where our people are fully engaged, inspired, and empowered; where KPMG stands as a stronger firm; and where our communities are thriving.”

This is an excerpt from the Winter 2021 issue of the Corporate Citizen