Not Your Mama's Companywide Volunteer Event: The Top 10 Must-Do's

Yesterday, Cone celebrated our own annual day of service at Christmas in the City, and it made us pause and think deeply about corporate volunteering events…

In the past decade, companywide days or weeks of service have become increasingly popular. Designed to unite and rally employees, these group volunteer events – like Comcast Cares DayCapital One’s ‘One Week’ Community Service Initiative andVisa’s Global Volunteer Month – offer a great opportunity to engage employees at every level, but they can require a large investment and significant manpower to truly activate your entire footprint – especially if it’s a large one!

With 3,900 properties across 90 countries and the complication of franchise agreements – which mean volunteer programs aimed at Hilton Worldwide’s more than 300,000 Team Members need to be attractive enough to owners that they choose to opt in – it’s no surprise that Hilton Worldwide decided to take a different approach to its first annual Global Week of Service. By focusing on scale, integration and mass local engagement, the inaugural event generated impressive results: more than 600 properties and offices completed 800 volunteer projects with 500 nonprofits in 401 cities around the world.

So how did they do it – and how can you do it, too? Below are 10 takeaways from Hilton Worldwide that every company should consider when planning enterprise-wide volunteer events:

1.    Empower your people to make a difference – Hilton Worldwide created a network of Community Champions and developed a series of how-to guides and simple toolkits for properties to use when identifying local community partners and planning local events. Don’t rely solely on centrally managed events; develop and nurture a network to create true impact.

2.    Partner globally, activate locally – Though the majority of Hilton Worldwide’s volunteer activities were driven via grassroots, a few “grass tops” helped, too. In general, Hilton Worldwide seeks partnerships with expert organizations comprised of local affiliates that help drive scale, and they leveraged existing relationship with organizations like Feeding America to connect Team Members to local service events.

3.    Lead by example – Hilton Worldwide’s President & CEO, Christopher J. Nassetta, rolled up his sleeves at events on two continents and senior leadership from across the company joined in as well. It may be obvious, but when the boss volunteers, employees do, too!

4.    Sound the horn, beat the drum – From daily online countdowns and electronic invites, to brand newsletters and presentations at Team Member meetings, Hilton Worldwide kept Global Week of Service top of mind internally. Integrate your communications efforts across different business units and leverage a wide variety of channels and communications mediums to build and maintain excitement for the week.

5.    Go digital – In September, Hilton Worldwide launched the Purpose Portal, a new online tool fueled by YourCause to help Team Members discover, coordinate and track volunteer projects. This truly global employee engagement platform is translated in eight languages and not only helped properties manage and measure results – but it also inspired and motivated them to “get in the game.”

6.    Invest in and showcase key markets – While Hilton Worldwide’s focus was on driving mass local engagement, the company worked with Points of Light to host “signature” events at regional headquarters and in major markets around the world. These iconic events helped reinforce the company’s global commitment to Travel with Purpose, engaged senior leadership and provided story telling opportunities. Never underestimate the impact of a professionally organized event!

7.    Reward action – To drive use of the Purpose Portal and participation, Hilton Worldwide and its brands gave away prizes every day for the 40 days leading up to Global Week of Service. But don’t think you need to allocate a million dollars for incentives. The majority of Hilton Worldwide’s incentives were fairly modest, and all were tied to creating social impact. Focus on incentives that fuel competition and a “first come, first win” mentality to drive excitement and fun.

8.    Tie to your core competencies – Hilton Worldwide serves millions of guests each day; Global Week of Service was about extending the spirit of hospitality beyond hotel walls and into the communities where Team Members live, work and travel, and many of the events were directly tied to service competencies. How will you leverage your most important assets – your employees – to create impact?

9.    Tell a great story – Leveraging data from events happening around the world, Hilton Worldwide created a special Global Week of Service microsite that mapped events across 51 countries, shared stories and photos, and invited the community to join activities. Don’t forget to capture your results and share your success.

10.    Don’t stop at one week! - Hilton Worldwide’s Global Week of Service is just one of many ways the company’s Team Members Travel with Purpose. Beyond the week, Team Members have the opportunity to participate in ongoing activities through brand community relations programs and a Global Team Member Volunteer Program. Companywide events leave employees hungry for more – be sure you feed their passion year-round!  

Tell us – what have you done to make your annual volunteer successful? Which of the above best practices will you incorporate into your plan for next year?

Jillian Wilson-Martin, Senior Account Supervisor, CSR/Social Impact and Alison Mehlsak, Account Executive, CSR/Social Impact


Note: Hilton Worldwide is currently a Cone client.

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