Corporate Volunteer Grants - What They Are, How They Work

Dollars for Doers Programs Help Charities

Company employees volunteering to help the environment.
Simon Jarratt/Corbis/VCG/Getty Images

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become big business for major corporations in the 21st century.

Companies understand that their customers care about how their purchases help or hurt social issues from global warming to the treatment of workers in other nations.

As a result, companies have become better citizens and make sure to give back to their communities.

In today's corporate world, at least seven types of corporate giving programs have proven to work.

While matching gifts are the most common form of employee giving program, volunteer grant programs are growing fast.

People have noticed.  For instance, news coverage of corporate volunteer grant programs includes the CSAA Insurance Group, based in California, that gives 24 hours of paid time off to volunteer each year; and Sallie Mae Employees who get up to 48 hours of paid leave time each year to volunteer and also bring in grants for the charities they serve. 

What Are Volunteer Grants?

Corporate volunteer grants, also known as Dollars for Doers grants, encourage employees to get involved in community service.

Through volunteer grant programs, a company gives money to nonprofit organizations based on how many hours its employees volunteer. Charities benefit from the employee’s service and from the additional grant the company awards them.

The great thing about volunteer grants is that companies give them to virtually all 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations.

Each company has slightly different guidelines, but there are a few common elements.

An individual employee must meet a minimum number of volunteer hours in a year before a grant is given. There is also a cap on the number of hours eligible for grants. The typical award comes to $8-$15 per hour spent volunteering with maximums ranging from $250 to $1,000.

Team Volunteer Grants

Several companies have taken volunteer grants even further by creating team volunteer grant programs. Doing so builds employees’ teamwork skills and increases community engagement

Team volunteer grants resemble individual programs except multiple employees must volunteer at an organization at the same time.

Kohl’s is a great example. Through the Kohl’s Associates in Action Program, when five or more employees volunteer together for three hours, the charity becomes eligible for a $500 grant.

Companies with Volunteer Grant Programs

Currently, over 45 percent of Fortune 500 companies offer volunteer grant programs for their employees. Here are a few examples of top volunteer grant programs.

Campbell Soup Company

Campbell’s gives grants of $500 after employees volunteer and log 25 hours of volunteer work (works out to $20 an hour). Campbell’s volunteer grant program excels not only because of the high hourly rate but also because employees can apply for multiple volunteer grants throughout the year.

Levi Strauss

Levi Strauss also provides volunteer grants equal to $20 per volunteer hour. Employees must volunteer for a minimum of 10 hours before they can request a volunteer grant.

Levi Strauss offers one of the highest maximums with grants topping out at $2,400 per employee

Macy’s

Macy’s gives volunteer grants to schools. Through its “Earnings for Learnings" program, the company hands over a $250 grant to schools where employees volunteer for at least 15 hours.

Chevron

Through Chevron’s “Grant for Good" program, the company gives grants to fund organizations where employees regularly volunteer.

Once employees volunteer for 20 hours, the charity receives a $500 grant. One unique aspect of Chevron’s program is that both current employees and retirees participate in the program and can apply for two grants a year.

Keys to Success for Nonprofits and Corporations

Jennifer White, Cradles to Crayons Director of Development and Strategic Partnerships, spoke to cause marketing guru Joe Waters about her experience with this type of program.

In Joe's article, How One Nonprofit is Raising Money from Company Volunteers, Jennifer said her biggest challenges were learning about which companies have Dollars for Doers programs and getting volunteers to log their hours.

It was much easier to work with employees who had access to electronic logging systems. It was much harder if volunteers had to fill out forms and get them to the right department.

It might take a little extra work, as Jennifer said, for a nonprofit to tap into Dollars for Doers programs, but the results could be well worth it.

Here are a few  tips for raising money from Dollars for Doers programs:

For Nonprofits

  • Get familiar with the broad array of volunteer grant programs in your region.
  • Always ask your volunteers about their volunteer grant programs.
  • Focus on building relationships with current volunteers who work for companies with volunteer grant programs. They might be able to bring on more of their coworkers, resulting in more corporate dollars.
  • Promote the idea of CSR and the various corporate programs to your supporters. Many people have no idea how they can help their favorite causes through their companies.
  • Got retirees among your supporters? Many companies extend their Dollars for Doers programs to their retired employees.

For Corporations

  • Allow employees to log their hours online. Switching to electronic corporate philanthropy software makes for a better experience for donors, nonprofits, and your CSR team.
  • Share details of your company’s volunteer grant program on your website and annual giving reports.
  • Make it as easy as possible for your employees to learn about and join your program.

As president of Double the Donation, Adam Weinger is an expert on corporate giving programs.