Data Brings Employee Volunteerism into Focus

By Allen Smith Oct 8, 2015

Data provides a clearer image of how well employer-sponsored volunteer programs are working, and it can identify who is missing from the picture.

Case in point: Company leaders of Capital One bank, headquartered in McLean, Va., identified individuals in the 41,000-member workforce who had not volunteered before and sent them reminders and incentives to sign up and log their hours, according to the recent Giving in Numbers report from CECP and The Conference Board.

CECP—the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy—is based in New York City and is a coalition of CEOs. The Conference Board is based in New York City, as well, and is a global, independent business membership and research association.

In 2013, Capital One employees volunteered more than 360,000 hours of service, according to its 2013 Corporate Social Responsibility Report. They taught financial literacy skills to kids and adults, helped first-time home buyers understand the responsibilities associated with homeownership, coached and mentored entrepreneurs, and helped revitalize their communities in 21 states. In one week in October 2013 (an event Capital One called OneWeek), more than 19,000 associates volunteered nearly 60,000 hours of service, participating in 1,300 company-sponsored community activities.

“Employers are using data to get smarter about communicating to employees and targeting their messages to the ones with low levels of awareness or engagement,” Carmen Perez, director of evaluation and data insights at CECP, told SHRM Online.

Capital One, for example, used data to provide personalized volunteer options by analyzing employees’ characteristics (e.g., hourly or salaried, urban- or suburban-based, type of skill set) and then matching them to volunteer opportunities, the report said.

In addition, Perez observed that businesses are moving toward results measurement of their efforts, saying that “29 percent of companies are measuring the business results—such as increased retention—connected to employee volunteering.”


Surveys can be a useful tool for measuring the social outcomes and business results of employee volunteerism.

GSK (Glaxo Smith Kline), a pharmaceuticals company headquartered in Middlesex, United Kingdom, fields surveys about its PULSE Volunteer Partnership. Through the program, employees volunteer full time at a nonprofit for three or six months, contributing their skills to help solve health care challenges at home and abroad.

The surveys measure the impact of the assignments on volunteers immediately after the projects conclude and then again six months later. The surveys also measure the impact on GSK’s management teams three months after volunteers return.

According to the PULSE 2014 Annual Report, approximately 85 percent of PULSE volunteers returned from their assignments reinvigorated. Program participants also have introduced new ways of working, such as:

  • Doing more with less.
  • Bringing a stronger sense of purpose.
  • Contributing to more-cohesive teamwork and integration with other parts of the business.
  • Simplifying processes.

As a participant in the PULSE program in 2012, Nicholas Falco says he “worked in a high-energy, entrepreneurial environment focused on health outcomes. The skills I brought back enabled me to more competently frame risks, options and impact associated with business decisions.”

Longer-Term Study

Manu Juneja, PULSE Operations manager for GSK in Philadelphia, says that within one to three years after completing their projects the PULSE program has resulted in not only strong engagement among employees but also significant leadership development. Other positive changes reported by PULSE participants include the following:

  • 95 percent are self-confident.
  • 93 percent have developed their problem-solving abilities.
  • 92 percent have increased pride in GSK.
  • 91 percent initiate new ways of doing things.

Ethical Use of Data

Perez noted that CECP promotes ethical measurement and evaluations.

It is important, she said, “to be really clear about the purpose of data collected in order to avoid overmeasuring.”

Two key questions in avoiding excessive measurement are who the audience is and how the data will be used.

But the benefits of benchmarking corporate-sponsored volunteerism are clear: “Companies that measured social results increased giving by 18 percent. Companies that measured social results and business results of volunteering increased giving by 40 percent,” she said.

Allen Smith, J.D., is the manager of workplace law content for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMlegaleditor.

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