Independent Bank: Making Employee Volunteer Incentives Work!

Mar 23, 2018 9:15 AM ET

Independent Bank: Making Employee Volunteer Incentives Work!

Independent Bank didn’t formalize their volunteer program until mid-2013. Less than five years later, they’re enjoying high employee participation in the program. In this feature, we take a look at how they got here. Hint: one of their secrets to success is incentivizing volunteerism.

Independent Bank had always collected data on volunteerism. As a financial institution, they have regulatory requirements under the Community Reinvestment Act they must adhere to. In 2013, they partnered with VolunteerMatch to formalize the program, and give its official name: Community Connection.

After familiarizing employees with the new program and sharing ways to get involved, employee volunteerism picked up in 2014. “We began promoting the program a little more with a couple of campaigns,” recalls Samantha Gruber, HR regional trainer at Independent Bank.

In 2016, Samantha and her team launched Independent Bank’s first-ever annual day of giving: Making a Difference Day. They closed the Bank’s 63 Michigan offices, and each department was given free reign to decide where they wanted to volunteer. The only criteria was that at least four hours needed to be spent volunteering. Nearly all of the Bank’s employees participated, volunteering for a total of 67 different projects.

“We feel very strongly that volunteerism is going to be most successful when people are doing what they’re most passionate about,” says Samantha, “We found that when you put people in a box and try to get them to volunteer for a certain event or cause, it’s not as meaningful. For example, a full-time teller whose parent passed away from cancer can volunteer for the organization that gave their parent treatment. That ends up being super meaningful.”

Building on the success of its first year, Independent Bank was ready to hold their second annual day of giving in 2017. But in addition to that, Samantha wanted to expand and diversify the volunteer program even more over the course of 2017.

“The next logical step, to us, was to incentivize hours tracking,” recalls Samantha. “We knew that our employees were volunteering beyond what was being tracked within our Community Connection site. We also hoped that offering swag at various intervals of volunteer tracking would remind employees to track their hours more consistently.”

Independent Bank launched their volunteer rewards program in March 2017, and enabled employees to retroactively track hours from the beginning of the year. Here’s how the rewards system works:

After volunteering for a benchmark number of hours (10, 25, 50, and 100), employees get to choose a reward. Each tier has its own set of gifts to choose from, including company-branded swag such as a blanket, coffee mug, desk clock, bluetooth speaker, and various apparel.

All rewards are exclusive to their volunteer program. In other words, the only way for their employees to get these items is to volunteer—pretty awesome, right?

The most notable effect they’ve experienced from these changes? The number of tracked volunteer hours grew significantly—by over 25%! The average Independent Bank employee now volunteers nearly 24 hours a year.

“The rewards program certainly boosted hours tracking, which is incredible!” says Samantha. “We’re hoping that keeping it fresh, adding, and replacing incentives will help us maintain this level of hours tracking.”

When asked about her favorite part of managing Independent Bank’s volunteer program, Samantha explains, “I’m proud of the entire program and of our company. We seem to be stumbling into this society where we’re inundated with the negative on a daily basis. But the volunteer program brings light to how good people are. To be able to see first-hand the amount of good our employees are putting into their communities is incredible.”

“And we wouldn’t be where we are without VolunteerMatch!”, adds Samantha. “The relationships we’ve formed and knowledge we’ve gleaned as a result of our partnership has been invaluable and is directly connected to our success!”

Have you incentivized your employee volunteer program? Let us know how that’s worked for you in the comments section below!

Ready to formalize your own company’s volunteer program? VolunteerMatch can help. Learn how.