Beyond Awareness and Participation: Strategies for Meaningful Employee Engagement Before, During and After Your Impact Event

Transformative Volunteering, Volunteering Experience

Achieving high levels of employee participation in corporate volunteering or giving programs requires awareness – on this we can probably all agree. Employees need to understand there’s an opportunity to participate and feel that opportunity is accessible to them.

So higher levels of awareness lead to higher levels of participation. And higher levels of participation lead to…what, exactly? When our end goal stops at participation numbers – simple outputs, we haven’t gone far enough in our own strategic thinking and it’s likely our efforts will fall short. To generate awareness, one of the first steps we need to keep front and center in our minds and in our messaging is “Why?”.

While specific participation metrics may be handed down from on high, it’s critical that we think long and hard about what we’re trying to achieve via participation for the community, for the company, and (this is one that gets left out a lot) for the participants themselves (check out our webinar on goal setting  for more details about how to do this.) 

Let’s assume you’re solid about the “why” behind participation goals, but you’re still challenged with overcoming the awareness hurdle. Here’s how to tackle that before, during and after your social impact event (if you prefer to watch, check out our RealTalk Webinar recording below, otherwise scroll to keep reading!).


RealTalk: The Power of Storytelling: Making Experiences Stick in Social Impact

This RealTalk Webinar takes a deep dive into creating story-worthy Social Impact programs that drive awareness and broad participation!


Select intrinsically motivated individuals to communicate your message.

  • Ideally, you’d have an employee leader network in place filled with these types of employees, those who truly care deeply about engaging with their community and are excited to share their passion with their co-workers. Absent that type of network, turn to employees at all levels who have demonstrated their passion for community engagement to help you spread the word. Bonus points if you can find executives who fit this description! 

Use behavioral nudges to attract attention in your written communications. Here are two to try (but there are many more!). 

  1. You can incorporate social proof by highlighting the number of employees who have already signed up for volunteer events or showcase testimonials or quotes from real people who have participated in the past. What you’re doing here is demonstrating that volunteering is a popular and socially desirable activity within the company. 
    • Example: “21 employees have already signed up for this upcoming volunteer event!” 
  2. Add in scarcity bias. People pay more attention when there isn’t enough of something for everyone (Obviously just make sure you’re telling the truth!)
    • Example: “Join us before we hit our limit of 25!” 


The above tactics will help you spread awareness in general and they’ll help you drive participation leading up to social impact opportunities, but the most effective way to exponentially increase awareness and participation over time is to focus on making your activity story-worthy. 

We encourage you to do this by making your activities Transformative by including a Brief, a Guided Experience and a Debrief but to be story-worthy, your impact experiences need to be sticky. 

And for that, you need 6 key elements: 

  1. Make it Simple. People generally hate to leave details out of the introduction at a volunteering or giving event, but too much information dilutes the message. What’s the one, focused message you want people to walk away with? This is what allows people to begin to declutter and create space to be mentally and emotionally present. 
  2. Make it Unexpected. In the context of Transformative volunteering and framing volunteer experiences, this is what we call the disorienting dilemma. The “alert” moment where what we experience is NOT what we expected. The key here is challenging assumptions or introducing an idea that is counter-intuitive. This is where people first begin to connect emotionally with the experience. 
  3. Make it Concrete. With each storytelling element, you’re ensuring that the message your employees receive about your program will stick. So, “make it concrete” is about telling them something they can easily visualize rather than something abstract.  
  4. Make it Credible. This is where you provide credentials or stats. It’s tempting to make statistics the focus of your storytelling. If it feels big enough, credible enough, dire enough, people should understand that they need to get involved, right? But using stats too soon engages people cognitively and shuts them down emotionally. Since people make decisions primarily based on emotions and then justify those decisions with facts, we need to appeal to their emotions first. 
  5. Make it Emotional. For social impact storytellers, this usually comes down to focusing the message on a person – an actual human being – to provide a way for participants to relate with the cause, issue, or people and to begin to tap into empathy.  
  6. Make it a Story. Each key element is best received when they’re wrapped in a story. When your employees encounter a social impact experience, greet them with a story that tells them everything you hope they’ll think, feel, and do after they leave. And do that by making it simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, and emotional.  


After your event, remember that you’re already in the life cycle – no event or campaign should be considered isolated. Every single one is an opportunity to amplify or highlight the next stage, the next opportunity, and ways for employees to level-up within the program. 

In every follow-up communication, use the principles above within your unique context: 

  • Creating “sticky” experiences through storytelling is more effective for driving awareness and participation in social impact programs than relying solely on traditional communication tactics. 
  • The most significant engagement metric is whether employees want to tell stories about their experience with the social impact program – if not, it wasn’t a story-worthy experience. 

One final tip: during your event or campaign, ask employees to listen and watch for one story-worthy element to share on Slack or LinkedIn after the event. Everyone who shares on social (or your intranet) will be put in a drawing to win $100 to donate to their non-profit of choice. 

Enhancing employee participation in corporate volunteering or giving programs extends far beyond merely raising awareness—it’s about transforming these opportunities into compelling, story-worthy experiences that resonate on a personal level. By focusing on creating transformative experiences that are simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and richly storied, you can not only increase awareness and participation but also foster a culture of empathy and sustained engagement. Remember, the true measure of success in social impact programs is not just in the numbers, but in the stories that participants carry forward and share, inspiring a continuous cycle of engagement and impact. 

Megan Strand

Director of Strategic Consulting

Recent Blogs:

Realized Worth helps you take a transformative approach to volunteering. We work with companies to create scalable and measurable volunteering programs that empower and engage employees, focus on empathy and inclusivity, and align with your most important business objectives. Talk to us today to learn more!

Transformative VolunteeringVolunteering Experience

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