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A Map for Success: Volunteering to Engage Global Employees

By April 9, 2018

By: Alissa May and Alastair Higginbottom

A Map for Success: Volunteering to Engage Global Employees

Volunteering is a great way to help engage employees, and the options are growing. A 2017 Povaddo survey examining corporate activism and employee engagement in Fortune 1000 companies found that 57% of employees surveyed feel Corporate America needs to play a more active role in addressing important societal issues.

The good news is that employees felt positively about companies where they felt the leadership was taking a stand on important issues. Simply put, employees are more engaged when they feel their employers care:

Employee engagement increases with companies’ commitment to CSR/social issues.
Whether or not a CEO is perceived to have his or her finger on the pulse of employee attitudes towards important societal issues has a significant impact on how employees view their company and their connectedness to it (Source: Povaddo research, 2017)

But what do you do to engage international and remotely based employees?

One way to engage employees and include remote team members too is through an online activity.

According to the CECP Giving in Numbers report from 2017, three areas where employee volunteer programs are growing are in pro bono service, flexible scheduling volunteer opportunities, and company-wide days of service.

To celebrate the Salesforce company-wide Global Volunteer Month, ran volunteer activities with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team that employees could participate in remotely, and the participation was outstanding.

Here are 6 things that worked for engaging a global team in multiple time zones.

1. Create a Clear Invitation

Get employees excited about volunteering by sharing what they can do, where to do it, and why it matters.

Here’s a sample invitation:

    Join the humanitarian relief effort without traveling, by attending a mapathon party in the office, at home, or on your own. Using satellite images and an online mapping tool, you’ll map out roads and buildings in informal neighborhoods in Kenya and Uganda. There will be a team of Salesforce employees in Kenya the week of March 19th that will be validating our work on the ground!

    You have five choices and all you need are your laptop and a mouse:
    1. Map with Pollicita Middle School Students
    2. Join one of the large HQ mapathon parties
    3. Ohana@home remote mapathons
    4. Plan your own! Everything you need to know
    5. You may ask, can I do this on my own time? Of course! Create a “new volunteer event” in Volunteerforce here with #GVM19 in the title

    For Global Volunteer Month, we’re partnering with HOT to help map informal communities and areas in the developing world that are not covered by Google maps. This helps NGOs and governmental agencies get vital resources, like medical supplies and disaster relief, to these communities on an ongoing basis and during emergency situations. It’s a high impact activity where you can truly make a difference!

And…for in-person teams, don’t be afraid to use emojis or order pizza! Here’s a sample invitation from a team member in Toronto, Canada:

Ideas for employee volunteering and giving programs

Gavin Stok, a Senior Manager, Technical Support – Marketing Cloud who ran a volunteer event, shared: “Always ensure you have a printed flyer to promote the event. It’s old school, but it works!”

Stella Lam, a Techforce Analyst, also has suggestions for a successful volunteering event: “For folks in person, have a one page sheet with login information and steps on how to map was simple and easy where people are sitting. To promote the event, plan out the messaging to post ahead of time. If it’s sponsored by a group, make sure each person posts, so it’s not always the same person posting. Create the posts differently, so it’s not the same post each time, as that could cause some readers to lose interest if it’s exactly the same.”

We agree that variety is the spice of life – and helps keep volunteering fun!

2. Simultaneous Volunteering In Person And Remotely

We picked a volunteer activity that could be done in person as well as online/remotely.
About the project: Many of the poorest and most vulnerable places in the world do not exist on any map. Free, up-to-date maps are a critical resource when relief organizations are responding to disasters or political crises. Maps allow the world’s most vulnerable people to be seen and and advocate for themselves. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT) creates and provides those maps.

Volunteers who join online help take satellite images and turn them into maps. Then, volunteers on the ground take the maps and validate them in person by walking through the various locations and talking with community members.

Pro bono/skills based volunteering example of online/remote employee engagement volunteer activity.
The Customer Success Group (CSG) team at came together in person and online for a team volunteer activity with Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team.

Giving and volunteering program ideas for employee engagement: a remote volunteering activity
Photo of a remotely based employee’s computer, working with an in-person team.

For the Customer Success Group (CSG) team at, about 20% of the participants in a mapping activity were based remotely. The CSG team put up a Google Hangout so remotely based employees could still be “in the room” with the team. It was a success:

So happy to participate remotely and still feel like I was in the room with everyone!
– Nicole Damstetter, Principal Customer Success Architect (and a remote employee)

3. Connect to Something Bigger

As Simon Sinek noted in his famous TED talk, “Start with why.” Without that, you won’t get engagement. While teams or individuals were free to do their own volunteer activity, having the map-a-thon activity across the company for the whole month helped people feel like they were part of something bigger.

We’re excited to participate in this volunteer opportunity that could include so many people, both based in our headquarters and joining remotely and in offices around the world, and have such a measurable impact. I’m excited to see what our team did translate into real-world services for people in communities.” -Cheryl Timoney, Director, Customer Philanthropy

4. Quantify your impact

Employee engagement through innovative volunteering ideas
Brussels, Belgium-based employee volunteers work on an online mapping activity.

Salesforce is excited to share that in just 1 month, with 1,899 employees making 273,283 edits with 4,708 volunteer hours as of April 3, 2018, we’ve helped put over 1 million people on the map. The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team website shared that over 115,000 volunteers have made millions of edits to OpenStreetMap and put 70 million people on the map. With Salesforce employees chipping in, that total is now 4,399 volunteers!

Salesforce celebrates over 19,000 hours of volunteering in March 2018.

Even if you’re at a smaller company, you can still reward volunteers with a leaderboard. Sales teams already do this to celebrate top achievers, so why not volunteers?

Celebrate your wins!

5. Connect Online and Offline Volunteering

Volunteers speak with community membersThe online mapping work by volunteers around the globe connected to in-person work.

Five Salesforce employees joined forces with the Karibu Centre and a local community group, called the Jumuia, to complete 200 hours of on-the-ground mapping. The volunteers added finer details to the map and validated the work done remotely, while their local partners completed the first-ever population survey. The local population has been upskilled, and left with the hardware required to carry on this mission; to enable the community to better advocate for itself.

In person volunteering: group photo in Kenya

6. Take Team Photos and Share!

Celebrate your volunteers with some fun team photos. Here’s one from our team in Hyderabad, India:

To celebrate your giving and volunteering program, take a team photo!
Hyderabad, India team Global Volunteer Month volunteers

Suneel Babu Penumaka, a Senior Software Engineer based in Hyderabad, shared, “This project was a good experience. The event was fun because we played music, had good snacks, and felt connected because we have contributed a lot to maps of buildings and roads. It makes me feel very proud of what me and my team did, because it is something really required for the people who need help during disasters. We are supporting thousands of lives indirectly by doing this work.

On a personal level, I built teamwork skills while setting up the project and managing the complete event. I learned communication skills and leadership skills, too, by supporting and creating new leaders as a volunteer.”

What are you doing to make volunteering fun for teams both in person and remotely? Share with us on Twitter at @SalesforceOrg and mention #VolunteeringRocks!

Want to make CSR more accessible, easy to manage and effective? Learn more about the launch of Philanthropy Cloud or check out 4 hard-won corporate philanthropy lessons.

About the Authors
Alissa May, Manager, Employee Engagement,
Alissa MayAlissa is a CSR and employee engagement professional with experience in developing program design and administration that is focused on strategic planning along with philanthropic and community growth. She has built socially responsible programs to scale and successful workforce engagement opportunities, with a deep commitment to global service and building and aligning partnerships.

Alastair Higginbottom, Manager, Employee Engagement,
Alastair HigginbottomAlastair is an experienced Volunteer Manager with a keen sense of social mission. In his role at, Alastair advocates for Volunteering and Philanthropy being central to operations within industry verticals; empowering and enabling executives and teams to own the way they give back to community, where we live and work. Collaborating with trailblazing schools, educators and volunteers, nurturing innovation within the education sector in London and the UK at large.