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Even the best social impact programs fail if no one participates in them. But despite many people’s desire to do good, companies often struggle to motivate employees to participate. 


A recent webinar we hosted on creating an environmental program included plenty of pro tips on how to engage employees. 





Diz Petit runs LiquiDonate, a software startup to help companies donate excess inventory to nonprofits and was an early-stage Postmates delivery service. Naomi Seth works as a Chief People Officer at OSF Digital, a digital transformation and Salesforce agency with offices in 25 countries around the globe. Both offered invaluable (and actionable!) advice on how to get employees involved.


1. Lower the Barrier to Entry with Ready-to-Go Opportunities


Postmates, the pickup and delivery service, took the 1% pledge early in their company journey. Right from the start, the company knew that they wanted 1% of employee time dedicated to volunteering. But ensuring that each employee used their 21 hours of volunteer time off (VTO) took some work.


Diz Petit, formerly the 15th employee at Postmates, explained some of the techniques that the company used during her tenure. 


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Create an Internal Newsletter with Volunteer Opportunities

Every week, the company sent out a newsletter with 2-3 upcoming volunteer events in the community. With opportunities readily available, employees felt less overwhelmed and intimidated by volunteering logistics and decision-making. 


Offer Skilled Volunteering Projects

Not every employee is comfortable with hands-on volunteering, such as serving at a soup kitchen or cleaning a beach – and that’s okay, Petit clarified. Instead, employees could choose to volunteer their professional skills to build products for the greater good. For example, some employees worked asynchronously on a project called FoodFight, which allowed restaurants to donate and deliver excess food to nonprofits.


2. Find Local Resources and Partnerships


Workers are inspired by helping the community around them. No matter how global your company is, Petit and Seth explained how regional partnerships can offer significant benefits. 


Research Government Greening Programs for Office Spaces

Many city and local government bodies have initiatives to help businesses go green. For example, LiquiDonate recently became a San Francisco Green Business Partner.


liquidonate logo.png


A local government official evaluated their current workspace and practices, then worked with the company and the landlord to implement more sustainable practices. Petit recommends researching your area for similar government-funded programs as they are low-cost, easy to implement, and a point of pride for many employees.


Seek Similarly Minded Organizations

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OSF Digital runs a program called OSF Academy that trains job seekers in technical skills. These classes are available online where OSF has employees, such as Brazil, Turkey, and Romania. However, they are also promoted through local colleges and universities. By working with local educational institutions, OSF directly reaches their regional communities. The program has trained over 700 people in their years of establishment, and many have gone on to work at OSF Digital itself.


3. Don’t Be Afraid to Connect Remotely


Engaging employees remotely can intimidate companies. But building a virtual impact program can be incredibly rewarding! Check out our Virtual Volunteering playbook for best practices, case studies, and practical tips.






Note: This playbook is only available to Pledge 1% member companies. Make sure that you are logged in to access it. If you aren’t yet a member, take the pledge today!


4. Look to Employee Benefits for Opportunities


Many of the benefits that you currently offer employees could be opportunities for good. Incorporating social impact into everyday benefits helps it become the default for how you do business.


Rethink SWAG

Everyone loves SWAG. But gift-giving can engage employees in social impact. OSF Digital gives their employees a choice on how to celebrate their birthdays: they can receive a corporate-branded gift or have a tree planted in their honor through ReforestAction. “Over 80%  wanted tree planting over swag.” Seth shared. 


Evaluate your 401K

Most companies offer employees 401Ks, but not all funds are created equal. Petit advised companies to “look at your 401K and see what funds you’re supporting.” In becoming a San Francisco Green Business Partner, Petit worked with a local government partner to shift their investment strategy to more environmentally friendly funds.

5. Sway Executives with Metrics and Surveys


Staff aren’t the only people who need to engage in social impact programs. Executives need to invest time and money as well, especially in tough economic times. 


Share the Most Effective Metrics

The speakers recommended focusing on both quantitative and qualitative metrics. For example, Seth reports on the number of trees planted with ReforestAction as well as the quality of the OSF Academy training courses.


When it comes to metrics, both recommended focusing on only a few key numbers. Tracking and analyzing can take multiple employee hours and can be inefficient. Petit shared that her company LiquiDonate used to track multiple metrics but pared down their efforts to three key data areas:

  • Number of pounds saved from a landfill
  • Financial value of items saved from a landfill
  • Number of nonprofits helped


Demonstrate the Value of Employee Retention

“I have yet to see a company survey where the majority of employees don’t list corporate social impact programs as one of their favorite parts of working there,” Petit shared. Sharing survey results and personal stories testifies to social impact’s ability to retain employees and prevent burnout. 


Next Steps


How does your company engage employees in its social impact programs? Let us know in the comments below or get inspiration from our Virtual Volunteering playbook.