Drive Engagement in Employee Volunteering with a Better Platform 

Announcing Submittable’s new corporate volunteering software

It’s been a busy June at Submittable!

And I’m excited to share our latest big announcement: Submittable is launching our new CSR product, a corporate volunteering platform we’ve named Volunteer. 

Earlier this month, we announced our Series C round of funding, a $47 million investment  led by Accel-KKR. We’re particularly proud to continue expanding our role in the rapidly transforming worlds of philanthropy and social good. The more our clients can get done with our software, the better positioned they are to make a deeper impact in addressing the key challenges of our time, including equity, social justice, climate change, and more. That’s good for everyone. (Read more about this funding, and what it means for our company, in this post from our CEO Thor Culverhouse.) 

This investment will support the expansion of our CSR suite of products—Volunteer is the first of the growing suite. Corporations and private sector employees understand now more than ever the interconnectedness between business and community—they thrive together. Through CSR programs, corporate leaders and employees are poised to play a big part in tackling society’s most pressing issues. Corporate volunteering is a key way that purpose-driven businesses are leaders are serving their employees, their communities, and their business goals.

Volunteering’s untapped potential  

Employee volunteer hours may be one of the largest under-utilized resources available in the social good sector right now. 

According to CECP’s latest report, 93% of corporations offer volunteer programs—yet participation was a measly 20% percent in 2020. Before you blame the pandemic, consider that the average participation rate in 2018 was only 30%. The numbers are bad, and they’re trending in the wrong direction. 

Let’s think about what this low participation rate means in terms of untapped potential. 

The potential to transform communities

First, let’s analyze the transformative impact these volunteer hours could have on local nonprofits and the communities they serve. United Way of the National Capital Area conducted an analysis based on this projection: 

What if the company with the largest revenue headquartered in (or with a major office in) each state implemented one day of volunteer time off? 

They found that even this modest additional commitment would yield over 75 million volunteer hours—that’s 9 million days or 1.8 million weeks that could supplement the nonprofit workforce. 

For nonprofits that rely on the commitment of volunteers to fulfill their missions, these extra hands can be the difference between a program succeeding or failing, or the ability to launch a creative new effort, or to set it aside. An effort to uptick corporate volunteering participation can make a significant difference in communities around the world. 

The potential to transform your employees

Now let’s consider the impact all this volunteering could have on your employees.

Volunteering has been clinically proven to provide substantial mental and physical health benefits, from lower rates of depression and anxiety to reduced stress, and even lower mortality rates.

Volunteering also contributes to a stronger sense of purpose which transcends job function. It can challenge assumptions and broaden perspectives. It can foster a deeper connection between people and their communities, and build meaningful, lasting relationships. Further, it can provide an avenue for your employees to take on new challenges and develop new skills. In short, volunteering can be a deeply, and positively, transformative experience.

The potential to transform your business

Okay. Let’s get on to brass tacks. 

If your company is going to create a corporate volunteering program, that means making an investment—both of your employees’ time, and in a platform that will make it successful.

So what’s the ROI? Incredibly significant, as it turns out.

Today’s workforce cares deeply about employers’ sharing their values and putting those values into action. In fact, a 2021 Deloitte report found that a whopping 49% of Millennials and Gen Z said that their employer’s (or potential employer’s) values and ethics have already influenced  their career choices. Your employee volunteerism can play a big part in recruiting this talent. 

Another study showed that employees who engaged in corporate volunteer programs were 32% less likely to churn. When you consider that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that, on average, it costs a company six to nine months of an employee’s salary to replace them, we are talking about serious potential savings. 

Other established benefits—such as improved culture and morale, an uptick in brand loyalty, stronger partnerships in your community, and increased community vitality—also contribute directly to bottom line success.

How Volunteer by Submittable unlocks your potential

Volunteer is purpose-built to drive engagement. It encourages participation through key innovations, taking cues from behavioral science and user experience (UX) best practices. 

Here’s Submittable’s philosophy to drive employee engagement in your volunteer program, brought to life in our product: 

Kick off (or revamp) quickly

Just as with our CSR software—where 75% of our customers in 2021 had their program up and running within two weeks—we understand the value of launching fast. 

Volunteer makes it as easy as possible to get your new volunteer program off the ground (or to replace your former clunky Excel sheet/office refrigerator sign-up list). Admins can get everything up and running swiftly—with very little required input and no tech savvy required—so your people can start making a difference fast. 

volunteer events
Volunteer by Submittable makes it easy for employees to browse and sign up for events they care about.

Offer meaningful experiences

Your program is only successful (and you only reap the business benefits) if people, you know…show up. 

Volunteer ensures people show up by democratizing event creation. You have the power to give any employee privileges to create new events (without full admin access). This could be managers and Employee Resource Group (ERG) leaders. It could also be anyone who raises their hand and wants to participate. Or everyone, with optional approval by admins. It’s totally up to you. 

Why let event creation become grassroots? Doesn’t that mean you’ll lose control? 

When volunteer opportunities are force-fed by HR, they don’t always take into account what would be meaningful—or even just convenient—for your employees. Consider, instead, the potential for engagement if your program were to leverage the relationships employees already have with nonprofits in their communities. Rather than leadership begging for slots to be filled, your employees could be actively recruiting their colleagues to join them at events focused on causes and organizations that are legitimately important to them. 

Event creation privileges are a subtly powerful way to transform your volunteer program. 

Make signing up easy

Signing up to volunteer with Submittable couldn’t be easier—it’s a single click. No confirmations, no sign up sheets, no spreadsheets, and no confusion about how you’ll find the details or get your questions answered. Rather, a single portal providing all of the information employees need to know, including: 

  • Who’s hosting and who you can contact with questions
  • What you’ll do and what to know 
  • When it’s happening (and when you need to register by)
  • Where to meet and where to park
  • Why it matters

They can also learn more about the nonprofit partner or ERG hosting the event, when applicable. They can check these details any time, and they’ll also receive reminders with everything they need to know. 

All this convenience not only removes technical burdens that prevent participation, it can also relieve the anxiety of someone newer to volunteering by answering all of their questions up front and giving them a clear point of contact.

Bring people together

Volunteer makes it easy for volunteer opportunities to become bonding experiences for teams. Or, it can provide a means for colleagues who don’t normally work together to get to know each other, strengthening cross-team collaboration. ERGs can similarly plan events for members of their group, or design an experience as a chance for non-members to learn more about them. 

In all cases, when employees sign up, they can easily see who else is already registered. This can further assuage anxiety for anyone newer to volunteering, or provide social incentive to anyone reticent to get involved.

In Submittable’s Volunteer, admins can access a reporting dashboard to glean insights and visualize impact.

Feel good about your impact

Built-in reporting sets up everyone in your organization to visualize and feel proud of their contributions. 

Individual impact dashboards track each employee’s used and available volunteer time off (VTO). This has the added benefit of serving as a visual cue for all employees to take advantage of and use all of their VTO—which will work wonders when it comes to your company meeting its engagement goals. They can also log external volunteer hours, such as board service or pro bono work, helping them to appreciate the full scope of their contributions.

For admins, robust reporting tracks VTO hours, as well as volunteering across causes, ERGs, nonprofits, and locations. The visual dashboard makes it easy to glean insights, and the data is fully exportable via CSV file or an API integration for further analysis in your business intelligence tools. It all helps your team understand and demonstrate the full impact of your volunteer program. 

Learn more about Volunteer by Submittable

We’d love to talk to you about how our volunteer platform can transform your business. Talk to an expert on our team today. 

Natalya Taylor

Natalya is the director of product marketing at Submittable and is focused on helping organizations get a ton of value out of the platform. She is a bookworm, adventure enthusiast and card-carrying cat lady as well as a writer and yogi.