Giving Back: 6 Steps to Creating a Corporate Community Involvement Program

Posted by Arlene Lieberman, Executive Director, Barney & Barney Foundation on February 22, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Community involvement programs are gaining momentum at companies of all sizes and for good reason. Employees love giving back, it’s great for fueling morale, and it’s important for the non-profits. It’s a definite win-win-win.

john.jpgIn 2014, the Barney & Barney Foundation introduced The Community Challenge, a fun way to encourage associates to give of their time and talent. From June 2014 to February 2015, Marsh & McLennan Agency associates collectively volunteered over 4,400 hours at more than 100 non-profit organizations. To get feedback on the value of the program, the Foundation surveyed the company’s employees and was pleased to see the results, particularly related to associate participation. Sixty-three percent of survey respondents confirmed that the program has encouraged them to be more involved in their community.

Here are some of the things we learned in the process of creating the Community Challenge. We hope these six steps will inspire your company and help you implement your own community involvement program.

1. Challenge

Setting a company goal gives employees something to shoot for and allows your company to track measurable metrics.

At the program’s inception, we challenged our associates to reach a cumulative 5,000 hours in nine months, which totaled just over an hour per person, per month. Although we didn’t quite reach our goal, associates demonstrated a drive to volunteer and the Challenge organizers are confident that the company will make that goal when given a full year.

2. Support

Getting management on board is crucial to empowering employees to get involved. With leadership visibly active in the process, associates see the value of volunteerism and are more likely to join in with corporate sponsored community events or with community projects of their own.

It’s not uncommon to show up at a Barney & Barney Foundation volunteer event and see associates painting a park bench alongside CEO Paul Hering or assembling bicycles for local youth with President and COO Hal Dunning. Knowing that it’s a team effort certainly inspires associates and principals alike.

community challenge3. Incentivize

As with all programs, incentives are useful for increasing participation. Companies offer various forms of incentives including volunteer time off, monetary donations to an associate’s charity of choice, and outstanding participation awards.

MMA offers 40 hours of paid time off through a 50/50 community service program. The firm recognizes the importance of maintaining a work/life balance and this type of program allows employees the flexibility to volunteer in the community during work hours. Seventy-three percent of survey respondents believe that community service activities support their work/life balance and, in 2014, 52 associates took advantage of the program.

On top of paid volunteer hours, the Barney & Barney Foundation also implemented the Volunteer of the Year award, which recognizes a top volunteer who truly embodies our core value of community involvement.

4. Award

In conjunction with creating an overall challenge, a matching funds component is also motivating for challenge participants. The idea is to match associate volunteer hours with additional financial support for their chosen non-profit, further encouraging associates to spend more time in the community.

The Barney & Barney Foundation rewards top volunteers by giving them grants to donate to the non-profit of their choice. After conducting research and establishing a reasonable budget, the Foundation set up the following grant system:

  • 20+ hours = $100 grant
  • 40+ hours = $250 grant
  • 75+ hours = $500 grant

During the 2014 Challenge, 52 associates qualified for grants. In total, the Barney & Barney Foundation donated $14,900 on behalf of the volunteers to various organizations throughout California.

communitychallenge_sm.jpg5. Empower

Making it easy for employees to volunteer is just as important as offering incentives and awards. This can be as simple as sharing a website search tool to locate volunteer opportunities like or as involved as organizing a volunteer event.

Through Barney & Barney’s Community Challenge website, both non-profits and associates can submit information about upcoming volunteer events. To increase awareness, the monthly Community Challenge newsletter also promotes all volunteer events that appear on the website. Each summer, the Foundation sponsors volunteer activities with three of the year’s grant recipients, giving associates the chance to volunteer solely with colleagues. Read about our 2015 events here.

6. Share

With a company-wide volunteer program, it’s important to share progress and promote success. Recognizing volunteers throughout the program – not just top volunteers – encourages all employees to engage at whatever level or frequency works for them.

Each month, we send out a Community Challenge e-newsletter spotlighting one of our volunteers and featuring upcoming events along with the month’s top volunteers who submitted the most hours. The e-newsletter has been well-received with an average email open rate of 78%. Our associates report that they enjoy getting a shout out for their beloved non-profit and reading about their colleagues’ activities.

The Community Challenge has been a great success and we couldn’t be more proud of our associates and the work they do in the community. By implementing the six steps to starting your own program and infusing those steps with your firm’s culture and creativity, we are confident that your associates will amaze you too.

Topics: Community Outreach

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