Social Impact

How to Get Buy-In for Volunteering When Executives Don’t See the Value


This article was originally published on LinkedIn.

I recently had a conversation with an individual who asked me a question I get/hear a lot: what if a company’s executive team doesn’t see the value of volunteering, how do you get buy-in?

My response to the question was simple:

Audit what your company spends on happy hours, off-site lunches, and other activities categorized as team building in a given year and show that to your executive team. When their heads stop spinning, explain to them that there’s a much more cost-effective way of building team camaraderie. And it’s more effective and meaningful.

What Type of Executive are You Dealing With?

In order to get executive buy-in for volunteering, you need to understand what type you’re dealing with.

There are three kinds of executives:

  • The executive who completely sees the value of volunteering and encourages his or her team to get involved
  • The executive who is lukewarm about volunteering but will go along with it if it matters to employees
  • The executive who sees zero value in volunteering

The first two are easier to deal with.

The last one is where people run into roadblocks as this type of executive has their mind made up and isn’t likely to budge without being convinced.

Understanding the Executive Mindset

At the end of the day, every executive is trying to maximize revenue and minimize costs to create a profitable company. They approach this goal in different ways, but this is their collective end goal – it’s what drives growth.

Once you understand how executives think, convincing them is a matter of identifying the levers that they care about (e.g. CEOs want happy employees while keeping costs low or sensible). Once you’re clear on this, you then have to prove that volunteering is a more viable option.

Is Volunteering Really a More Effective Team Building Activity?

I’ll be first to admit, team building activities like bowling can be fun. But they don’t move the needle quite like volunteering.

How do I know this?

I’ve experienced the effectiveness of volunteering as a team building activity first hand.

In 2013, I joined a small San Francisco-based startup. The first week on the job my team and I volunteered. We did this for every new group of employees and did one-off volunteering activities throughout the year.

I quickly realized why we were volunteering:

  • It was the right thing to do – full stop
  • Making a difference as a team creates a powerful shared experience

The kicker? The only costs we incurred was for transportation to and from the volunteering location, and a few hours out of our day.

Volunteering became something my entire team and I looked forward to because of the shared experience.

My message to all those companies out there that say they don’t have the budget or time to volunteer: you’re not making an effort.

Final Thoughts

Take it from me: volunteering is a valuable activity to leverage to bring your team closer together.

If you’re skeptical (or if you have a stubborn executive), I recommend testing it out and gathering feedback from employees.

Founder of Startups Give Back and Changemaker Studios, a parent organization that builds and manages a portfolio of impact brands including Social Impact World. Board of Directors: Seahugger. Angel investor.

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