Engaging remote employees: How to take corporate volunteering virtual

Virtual volunteering has evolved over the past few years to include meaningful actions big and small, completed by individuals and teams. 

As the definition of virtual volunteering has expanded, the benefits have, too. Virtual volunteering builds more inclusive programs. Everyone can participate, teams are no longer restricted by geography and multiple organizations in need can benefit from a team’s efforts. 

Companies embracing new digital experiences are also boosting employee engagement, retention and acquisition. They’re instilling a sense of purpose in their workforce and spreading Goodness globally. 

One of the great benefits we’ve seen from team-building orientated virtual volunteering initiatives is that you can connect teams across borders. I think that’s been a really significant step to building an enjoyable and meaningful team experience. It’s been a real positive for us.

—    Kerry McNally, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Fitch Group

This article explores what virtual volunteering programs can look like, the benefits of virtual volunteering for businesses and the things you need to consider when setting up a virtual volunteering program. 

Find a guide to virtual volunteering, including ideas on how to get started, on The Social Impact Show by Benevity.

Watch the episode: 


Prefer to listen? 

What is virtual volunteering?

Virtual or remote volunteering happens online.

Corporate virtual volunteering means employees can donate their skills, services and time from the comfort of their own home — using their computer. 

For me, virtual volunteering — or remote volunteering — is a range of things. It ranges from small acts of kindness to pro bono or long-term virtual placements with organizations. We’ve seen a lot of companies providing employees with home volunteering kits; these are packages an employee can put together themselves to positively contribute to a nonprofit.

—    Chris Jarvis, Executive Director, RW Institute, Chief Strategy Officer, Realized Worth

Struggling to think of some virtual volunteering initiatives for your business? Here are a few of our favorites.


1. Virtual brainstorming sessions

Brainstorming sessions are a sprint-like event where a group of talented individuals combine their skill sets to solve specific issues for a nonprofit. These sessions are much like the hackathons of the design world, but usually with a larger range of talent. 

PwC Switzerland, for example, shifted their team-building Intern Day, usually held in person, to a virtual session. Interns collaborated to help solve problems for causes — from medical research to the environment, from Laos to Switzerland.

And as part of Atlassian’s virtual volunteering program, they hosted good happy hours that brought together employees and nonprofits. People from the nonprofits told employees what they needed and how they could help, and this personal approach drove participation and engagement.  

A great one for this idea is an initiative called Missing Maps. It’s an organization that enables volunteers to use satellite images to trace outbuildings or identify villages that aren’t on anybody’s radar. So there’s no aid or support, and they’re not yet accounted for.

— Chris Jarvis, Executive Director, RW Institute, Chief Strategy Officer, Realized Worth

2. DIY online workshops

DIY online workshops typically bring people together to build and distribute something for a good cause. 

One way to do this is through Clean the World’s Soap Saves Lives Box program. Employees can order DIY kits to their home and get together online for the box-building session.

3. Support for older or isolated individuals

Virtual volunteering doesn’t always have to be skill oriented. Plenty of volunteering opportunities simply require time and a kind heart. 

Your team can create holiday greeting cards or thank you cards for people who may feel isolated, such as retirement home residents.

Many nonprofits are looking for volunteers to pick up the phone and start a conversation. These kind gestures can dramatically improve someone’s day.

4. Virtual cleanups

Cleanups are super satisfying for their instant results. Virtual cleanups involve individuals logging their efforts online after doing their volunteering individually.

Drains to Ocean provides cleanup kits that can be sent directly to employees. And Barrel Bag hosted a livestream event educating people on plastic pollution and how to become stronger environmental advocates.

Pick-up trash bingo is a way to gamify your teams’ efforts when they cannot do the cleanup side by side. The bingo challenge involves matching certain items of trash instead of numbers.

We’ve done everything from mentoring schemes by Zoom or telephone [to] long-term leadership development programs, speed mentoring, mock interviews and career talks. We’ve done everything I hoped we would do, and in some regards, we’ve done more than I could have hoped in our shift to remote volunteering.

— Kerry McNally, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Fitch Group

5. Online coaching

Coaching is a relatively simple volunteering opportunity that you can shift online. Use popular video platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts or Skype or, as a mentoring service, you can communicate via email and phone. 

Career coaching

You can help simulate interviews for job seekers, or simply lend advice on a job seeker’s CV and professional growth plan. Another option is coaching teens who are just starting their careers.

Nonprofits like Mary’s Place ask people to record videos about their professional experience to provide insight to those seeking a similar career. Other nonprofits, like The Switch, give young people valuable insights from those who have walked the path before them.

Nonprofit mentoring

Many nonprofits seek people to serve on their boards, acting as mentors and sharing business and leadership advice.

Some traditional face-to-face volunteering opportunities actually lend themselves very well to the virtual environment.

Schools and charities needed additional support and colleagues were able to deliver this from home. So we actually saw an increase in projects, hours and volunteers in certain specific programs according to both need and ease of remote delivery.

— Anya Todd, Corporate Responsibility Senior Manager, KPMG UK

6. Virtual fundraising and awareness

Fundraising and awareness efforts for your purpose campaigns don’t always need to happen in real life. By getting creative, you can organize virtual events that can help you hit your goals. 

“We held a virtual around-the-world fundraiser for the NSPCC, asking colleagues to clock up kilometers for Childline. We had over 1,000 employees get involved, participating in various things from paddleboarding to horse riding — which was great! This also greatly enhanced their sense of health and well-being as well as boosting morale.”

—    Anya Todd, Corporate Responsibility Senior Manager, KPMG UK

The team from reinsurance company SCOR hosted a virtual sleep-out to raise awareness and funds for Covenant House International, which supports young people overcoming homelessness. For a night, the entire team “slept out” somewhere other than in their bedrooms; some in other areas of their home, while others took it to their garden. The team raised 23,000 pounds for their cause.  

Every year since the SCOR team has participated in the Reinsurance Sleep Out for Covenant House, I always come away feeling that I receive as much as I give. I feel fortunate to be able to contribute to Covenant House’s efforts.

—    Jean Paul Conoscente, CEO, SCOR Global P&C

What are the benefits of virtual volunteering?

Virtual volunteering benefits are largely the same as traditional volunteering benefits. You should begin to see an increase in: 

  • Employee engagement.
  • Employee purpose.
  • Employee retention and acquisition. 
  • Brand sentiment.
  • Investor appeal. 
  • Employer branding. 
  • Bottom-line ROI.
  • Employee upskilling.


There are also a few unique advantages to virtual efforts:

Employee and contractor inclusivity

Your business will be able to include more remote employees and contractors than you would with in-person events. People are no longer restricted by their geographical location.

Through online activities, teams that live across different locations can build stronger links and bonds.


Logistics can be a challenge with in-person volunteering — from travel and time zones to seasonality and availability. 

Virtual events are much more flexible. Some volunteering efforts are not time-specific and traffic will not be an issue.

Nonprofit reach

Taking your volunteering efforts online means you can go global with your CSR efforts. You’re no longer limited to fieldwork for those nonprofits located within a short distance of your office.

You can take your pick of the global nonprofits that resonate best with your employees and your company mission. And you can find online ways to support them.

Nonprofits benefit more

Skills-based volunteering is more beneficial for nonprofits. Hands-on volunteering has been valued at an estimated $25 per hour, whereas skills-based volunteering is estimated at $195 per hour. That’s a 680% increase in dollar value. Simply put, your employees have a massive chance to make even more impact.

Less volunteer time required 

Many companies offer paid volunteer time off (VTO) for volunteer programs, or at least flexible scheduling. However, VTO usually includes travel time, lunch breaks and other factors, so an employee could miss an entire workday for volunteering efforts that take up less time. 

Digital volunteering allows employees to be more efficient with their VTO.

8 things to consider when implementing virtual volunteering

Virtual volunteering activities have different organizational requirements compared to your hands-on volunteering opportunities. Here’s our checklist of things to consider.

1. Technology and tools

First of all, do you have the right technology and tools in place? Without it, running a program can be time consuming, hard to roll out and lacking in valuable data insights. 

With the right platform, you will be able to facilitate employee volunteering activities easily. Your people will be able to find and register for virtual opportunities that resonate with them.

And, with little time and effort, you can track and report on the impact of your program and your volunteers. 

I’m a firm believer that, for corporate volunteering in particular, the process has to be seamless and as easy as possible. If somebody has to click more than two or three times then you’ve lost them.

Everything needs to be very clear in front of employees, and they need to know exactly how they can contribute and potential impact so they can say yes!

— Kerry McNally, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Fitch Group 

2. Communication and employee reach

For your program to be a success, it’s important to communicate with your employees on all the platforms they’re using.

Taking care of the frequency of your communications is very important. Word of mouth, getting other people to communicate for you and their networks to sign up, is by far the most effective way to get people on board.

Be creative with how you communicate initiatives — think about different ways you reach people. I’ve used custom sign-offs, videos, polls and quizzes. Make it interactive, short and sweet.

Plus, use data wherever you can when pushing an initiative to employees; people respond to numbers. Telling a group of 100 employees that 75% of their colleagues are volunteering will make the 25 remaining sit up and take action.

—    Kerry McNally, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Fitch Group 

Never underestimate the power of peer-to-peer influence, especially when it comes to a global launch. Local champions can help you ensure regional and cultural considerations are covered.

With 16,000 employees in the U.K. across 21 offices, communication has always been key. We’ve found having sponsoring partners who champion specific programs and send communications out themselves, encouraging colleagues to get involved, to be really successful.

The senior partners for each office also do the same and each office has a corporate responsibility committee made up of program champions who also share comms and promote opportunities.

— Anya Todd, Corporate Responsibility Senior Manager, KPMG UK

3. Internet access

If you have employees who don’t typically work at a desk, or they have limited internet access, you’ll need to keep this in mind when planning virtual volunteering activities. You may need to create other ways they can participate that don’t rely on high-speed internet. 

For example, you can provide information about the volunteering activities and how to participate through your other communication channels. 

4. Volunteering guidelines

As with in-person volunteering, it’s a good idea to set up guidelines, processes and policies for virtual volunteering activities. These guidelines can include a code of conduct, VTO rules and new communication processes. 

Our volunteering framework is still the same as it was when everything was 100% face to face. We still allocate time to volunteers each year, and we still have policies, procedures and guidelines for causes we’re working with.

—    Kerry McNally, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Fitch Group

5. Accessible causes

Look for those nonprofits that already have remote volunteer options. And, if you have time, connect with nonprofits you’ve worked with in person to keep relationships thriving. 

You can also be creative when defining what your program encompasses. The company Ciena embraced virtual volunteering through small acts of kindness. 


“When it comes down to selecting your partner, you need to be able to identify one that operates in a virtual manner effectively. That doesn’t necessarily mean the technology they’re using, but are they actually operating effectively and impactfully within a community — virtually?”

— Kerry McNally, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Fitch Group

6. Network of workplace champions

Many organizations have champions or ambassadors who promote their workplace volunteering programs. Seek out enthusiastic supporters and ask for their input on what causes and experiences are appealing to them. 

7. Employee resource group engagement

Employee resource groups can be a great resource when it comes to organizing and promoting virtual volunteering activities.

These energized groups of people will have causes they’re passionate about. By going to them, you’ll get their ideas and creativity. You’ll also unleash an opportunity for them to expand what they’re doing to the rest of the organization.  

8. Impact measurement

Finally, it is important to determine how you’ll measure the impact of your virtual volunteering program. What metrics will you track to determine the success of your efforts, and how are you going to monitor them? 

Identify some clear goals that will showcase your digital CSR efforts are working. A few KPIs to consider are: 

  • Increase in employee engagement. 
  • Increase in employee retention. 
  • Increase in NPS survey results. 
  • Number of total volunteer hours.

If you’re looking to set up a strong, purpose-driven CSR strategy, this guide can provide some great insights to support your process.

How to recognize virtual volunteers

Giving recognition is one of the most rewarding parts of running a volunteering program. Here are several ways you can acknowledge your virtual volunteers. 

Spotlight your volunteers

Recognizing the people leading your volunteer program goes a long way. It can be extra meaningful for this recognition to come from senior leadership at a town hall meeting, for example. 

Seed accounts

Seeding accounts is a simple yet effective way to recognize volunteers while spreading more Goodness. Put donation currency into volunteers’ accounts, which they can then use to support the causes they care about. 

Create lotteries/draws

Generate extra excitement by running a lottery or raffle for your volunteers, where one is awarded with a higher-than-normal amount of donation currency. 

Wrapping up virtual volunteering

Engaging employees virtually is no easy task, but the results are well worth it.

Virtual volunteering is doable for any type of business. It all starts with finding those causes and communication strategies that best fit your employees’ wants and needs.