Eric Franzo Brings Corporate Volunteering to Life (and Work) with

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Eric Franzo Brings Corporate Volunteering to Life (and Work) with

Volunteering has long proven its power to make the world a better place. That said, the greater reserve of people power—the working world itself—goes largely untapped. We sit down with Eric Franzo, founder of, a Vancouver-based company committed to building better corporate volunteering solutions, to talk about the traditional challenges, the network of non-profits in need and the true benefits for individuals and organizations alike.

Key Takeaways:

  • While the majority of corporate volunteer programs allocate hours to individuals, the majority go unused and the experience can be isolating;
  • The primary challenges in creating effective, corporate volunteering events boil down to time-consuming coordination and a lack of available group opportunities;
  • Group volunteering not only brings hybrid/remote teams together, but fosters interactions outside the workplace norm on a truly human level; and
  • Aside from boosting figures like retention and productivity, volunteering also just makes you feel good about yourself and the company you keep.

It not only feels good to do good—these days, it’s also the living brand of smart business.

For Eric Franzo, founder of, a Vancouver-based start-up committed to building better corporate volunteering solutions, that feel good effect is one that serves multiple parties in ways that go beyond the traditional ROI for individuals and organizations alike.

Originally created as a volunteer management platform for non-profit organizations in 2019, found its true purpose in the event-free days of the pandemic, digging deep into the varied pain points of their traditional clients—and opening a new world of volunteer opportunity in the process.

“The pandemic pushed us to make a series of pivots” said Eric, who went looking at other pain points in the non-profit world, before getting a call from a corporation looking for someone in the volunteer space to help with their own dilemma—a volunteer program no one used.

And so the purpose of Purposely found its roots, which have continued to grow exponentially since, linking well-intentioned companies with non-profits to appreciative results.

“What we discovered when we spoke with People teams is that this is an industry-wide issue—especially for any company not large enough to have a committed CSR officer or someone dedicated to the role,” said Eric. “Intentions are good and the programs and available hours are there, but in most companies, few employees tend to volunteer outside of a small, core group.”

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While disheartening and ineffective, what Eric discovered and Purposely has helped solve are a pair of primary problems facing any corporate volunteering program—time-consuming coordination and the difficulty of finding good, group volunteering opportunities.

“That’s when we started developing an engagement platform to address these challenges. At the same time, we also helped our non-profit partners because traditionally they have access to two pools of volunteers—students and seniors,” said Eric. “People who work volunteer less than half as much as those two groups. So, the non-profits don’t typically have access to people who are working for an obvious reason—they work during the day and are simply too tired or have other priorities when they get home.”

Through Purposely and the network it is evolving, Eric and a tight team of seven are not only toppling a prior paradigm, but realizing the actual potential of corporate volunteer programs.

“The thing is, companies are home to a lot of talented people—marketers, sales people, HR professionals, web devs, tons of different people with expertise in a particular area who are up to date in their field and could contribute to a non-profit—and not necessarily with their skills alone, but with a different kind energy,” said Eric. “You have a very energized group here that is both very capable and able to give back, but non-profits don’t usually interact with this working group.”

Eric points out that even those limited interactions are usually delimited without an existing non-profit need. “A company approaches offering 25 people to volunteer, but the need is not there, so they’ll throw together something in hopes of future fundraising with the company, but the net result is a low impact volunteer event. Most of the employees are left to stand around and the non-profit kind of got help, but not really,” he said. “These scenarios were the best cases, which left a bad taste in my mouth, so when we started approaching non-profits, we explained that people wanted to volunteer in groups and we wanted to really dig into some problems corporate volunteers could potentially solve.”

At first, not even the non-profits knew.

“Often times non-profits just don’t know how they can utilize corporate volunteers. That’s been the really fun part on the non-profit side, those light bulb moments when they realize corporate volunteers can come in during the day and take on a project or two that they’ve had sitting off to the side. They didn’t think they could get anyone to do it, but we can make happen,” said Eric. “We asked, ‘Do you have an office that could use a repaint?’ ‘Yeah, we do, but we didn’t think volunteers would want to do that.' ‘Well, they do,’ we explained and started match-making, bringing in groups to paint, landscape, rake, you name it. We built a toy shop for kids with the Elizabeth Fry Society that they thought would take three weeks between two of their staff. We did it with volunteers in an afternoon. Again, they didn’t think they could get volunteers during the working day to do that.”

Closer to the human heart of tech, Purposely recently brought together the indomitable HR expertise of the TAP Network with immigrant women looking to break into the field via YWCA’s Tech Connect program.

“We worked with YWCA a while back with their Tech Connect program where they bring in cohorts on an ongoing basis. We approached them, asked if they needed any corporate volunteers and started to come up with ideas, talking about mock interviews and resume building,” said Eric. “We mentioned that we work with a lot of people in HR, so I got a hold of Stephanie Hollingshead with the TAP Network, which has HR pros from across the tech industry, and asked if we could make something happen. The answer, of course, was yes.”

The value for all parties was indisputable—and working with a team of HR pros made it a pleasure for Eric too. “It was a huge success—easy to coordinate and folks in HR are very social and welcoming, so it was a great fit.”

And while those perfectly aligned moments definitely shine, Eric has found the greatest aha! moments exists for corporations outside their traditional comfort zones.

From distributing clothing for the homeless on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside together on behalf of the non-profit Working Gear to spending a day washing windows at Vancouver’s Belkin House, he has witnessed many of those moments.

“There was a lot of trepidation for some of the employees we brought aboard to volunteer with Working Gear, and for myself too, about going into the Eastside like this. I think in general we bring a lot of preconceived notions to circumstances like this. The beautiful thing we saw was that after volunteering and handing out clothing to those in need, almost everyone to a person said it was life-changing. Meeting and humanizing people who you only hear about on the news, hearing their stories, laughing and interacting—it’s really something that sticks with you,” said Eric. “Compare that to going out for lunch or an escape room. Which do you think is going to have a more lasting impact on your team?”

The reasons for volunteering vary, but the better business case very much exists.

“There are some people within companies for whom the ROI isn’t so important. They know they want to do good, and we make that incredibly easy. Then you have those who need to see the hard numbers—how is this helping retention, productivity, revenue? Fortunately, research shows that companies with an effective volunteer program see a 42% reduction in turnover,” said Eric. “There are plenty of benefits to a volunteer program, like the fact that 77% of consumers want to purchase from socially responsible companies or that 87% of employee volunteers report greater pride in their company. It makes a big difference.”

Especially in a competitive market Eric notes, if you want to quantify efforts, while retention alone is a huge thing, you might consider its impact in absentia on attracting talent.

“Corporate volunteering has the same impact on hiring too. Studies have shown that 59% of millennials won’t work for companies that lack a commitment to corporate social purpose,” said Eric. “There are simply different expectations from the generations coming up and companies have to meet those expectations or lose their competitive edge when it comes to hiring—and fall behind.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of all, Eric notes, is one we can only truly appreciate having come through the isolation of the pandemic and now working in hybrid/remote workplace environments.

“When it comes to engaging employees, interdepartmental connections are critically important—especially for companies that have moved to hybrid or remote work. We work with a number of companies that have individual departments meet each week, but they miss out on meeting folks from other departments. Volunteering is really the best way to foster those connections,” said Eric. “You can run a volunteer event with 20-30 available spots and leave it open to all departments. Now they are making new connections, collaborating, and learning from each other . It’s great. My hope is that people can take that feel good effect from volunteering back to their workplace and infuse it into both the product and their team.”

Seeing the impact of that sense of awesome return to workplaces is as inspiring for Eric as the natural thanks from the non-profits.

Telus is a company that has a great volunteer program. Every year they host a volunteer week to support nonprofits. I was talking to a former Telus sales rep and he told me that sales dramatically improved after that week. And it makes sense—the sales team felt a greater connection to the brand, and more passionate about what they were doing. That naturally led to better sales results. It’s something people care about and it makes a difference. And while it’s great for the company, when people are excited they bring that positive energy back home and it can create more positive environments for our family and friends. Volunteering is really that impactful.”

“That’s what we do—we create and enable these Aha! moments for companies. We hear a lot of ‘this feels great,’ how awesome it is to see different sides of their coworkers and a genuine gratitude that this is something their company cared enough to do—for them and the non-profit. There are all these benefits that aren’t always obvious on the surface when you hear the words volunteer program,” said Eric, before once more laying those benefits bare for any CFOs still wondering why on Earth they would pay someone to work for someone else for day.

“In terms of ROI there is the dollar value. It Even a small reduction in turnover as a result of an employee volunteer program can save a company thousands. Then there is the impact on employee mental health or even your company’s brand image. Customers who are looking to buy from more socially minded companies are more likely to buy from your company. Then there is just the feel good factor. It’s just something we all know— getting outside of ourselves and helping others just naturally feels good. It’s more intangible, but it’s invaluable.”

As for when is the right time to begin a volunteer program, for all of the reasons above, Eric said, “The truth is you can never start too early. Once you get too large, it gets more difficult, but if you can work it in from the start, it’s just part of what your company does. It helps drive the momentum of a culture of giving back and makes it part of your corporate DNA.”

Interestingly, Eric notes, it also seems to strengthen individual DNA as well, with Harvard Business Review reporting that people who volunteer increase their life expectancy simply by doing for others and acknowledging that shared humanity.

“The benefit returns but in different forms. It’s a selfless thing, but all parties actually reap the rewards. It’s a beautiful thing,” said Eric, who admits the initial lift has been tough, but lightens with every new connection choosing to look at volunteering in a different light—purposely.