When putting together a startup business plan or investor deck, corporate volunteerism isn’t a topic that typically takes up a lot of space. However, it can pay true dividends for your company in terms of recruiting tech talent, retaining employees and employee satisfaction, and lean startup marketing.

Here are a few ways in which volunteering regularly can boost your startup:

1. Volunteerism = Low-Cost Team Building

Young startups, particularly those experiencing high growth, are often adding a lot of new employees quickly. Funding rounds can exacerbate this. You may find yourself with a talented workforce  of individuals who don’t know each other that well, in which case team building is essential. So rather than a series of lame activities or an expensive outing, meal or company party, why not go volunteering? You’ll be surprised by how much fun you have and the bonds that will develop even after just a few hours.

2. Volunteerism = Recruiting Success

Study after study has shown that people want to work for socially responsible companies. According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, 39 percent of millennials researched their company’s cause work prior to interviewing, and 55 percent of millennials were influenced to take their job after discussing cause work in the interview. If you want to attract young talent, cause work is no longer optional.

3. Volunteerism = Low-Cost Marketing/PR

A shrewd reason for volunteering, indeed, but one that carries with it real benefits. For startups, getting your name out there can be tough, especially if you’re staying lean in marketing. Nonprofit leadership and board members are typically influential in the community that they operate in, and some nonprofit employees and constituents may even be in your product or service’s target market.

4. Volunteerism = Rewarding and Good For The Community (Duh)

This should be the prevailing reason for creating a volunteer program at your company. All companies have a responsibility to give back to their communities, especially if you receive public incentives or funding. Besides, a strong and vibrant community is conducive to a healthy business climate, which all startups desperately need.


The Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center team, 24 Hour Web Project recipients in 2014, applauded the launch of their new website after pulling an all-nighter. Pictured from left to right: Board member, Jennifer Coffey; Executive Director Anne-Marie Taylor; Mitzi Wilson, Director of Public Allies; Danicia Malone, Capacity Building Specialist and Communication Coordinator.


Tips for getting a volunteer program started at your startup or tech company

If you want to get started, here are a few tips:

Put planning in the hands of your employee culture committee

Your employees likely have many causes that they support personally. Rather than having management choose organizations at random or arbitrarily, let employees suggest the nonprofits you visit. It will make the trip more meaningful and give you a chance to learn something about your colleagues that you may not have known before.

If you don’t have a culture committee, consider creating one. Putting these decisions in your employees’ hands instead of management is the key to an authentic employer brand.

Set a schedule and stick to it

Once you decide to volunteer weekly, monthly or quarterly, make sure you stick to the schedule. Keep a few trips scheduled out in advance so that you don’t have to scramble to organize a trip. This will also give your team the proper time to work it into their busy schedules and get into a rhythm.

Make it disruptive

Volunteering shouldn’t be something you do when you have a free day or nothing else going on. It should disrupt daily activities. Without this disruption, you just aren’t giving as much back. So don’t just go on nights and weekends – stop working and go during the day. This is the time when nonprofits will need the most help anyway.

SmallBox‘s 24 Hour Web Project is an awesome example of disruptive volunteerism. Every year, their entire agency literally shuts down in order to concentrate on creating a new website, from scratch, for a nonprofit. It would be easy to just throw the project into the queue with all of their other paying clients and get it done when they can, but they prefer “radical philanthropy.”

Applications for this year’s 24 Hour Web Project will open again in April. Interested nonprofits can sign up here for an email notification when it’s time to apply.

No matter where your business operates, there should be no shortage of nonprofits in the area. So get out there and do some good. You’ll be glad you did.

CAPTION for Featured Image Above: After launching the new inrc.org, the INRC team gifted SmallBox with a welcome mat for their office. Before calling it a night, the two teams posed for a group photo in front of the SmallBox office in Broad Ripple.

Steven_ShattuckSteven Shattuck is VP of Marketing at Bloomerang, which helps nonprofit organizations to reach, engage and retain the advocates they depend on to achieve their vision for a better world.

As a HubSpot Certified inbound marketer, he is a contributor to NTEN, Nonprofit Hub, Ragan, Social Media Today, Search Engine Journal, The Build Network, Technorati, Content Marketing Institute, Conductor and Business2Community.

Steven serves in a marketing/communications role on several nonprofit committees, is a frequent speaker at nonprofit conferences, and is a highly sought-after webinar presenter. He is routinely interviewed by media outlets for his expertise in digital marketing.

Recipient of the David Letterman Scholarship, Steven graduated with honors from Ball State University in 2006 with a degree in Telecommunications and Creative Writing. He resides in Indianapolis with his wife and young son.