It's often said of corporate citizenship efforts that it's important for a company to "do well" in its business while "doing good" in the community. We've found that, when it comes to employee volunteering, these two ideals are one and the same: an effective employee volunteer program brings many advantages to the company sponsoring it as well as to the community. Here are some of these advantages:
Of course, it's critical to proactively support the community while pursuing your business objectives. When your employees are engaged in the well-being of the community they live and work in, they are more conscientious about the impact they are making as volunteers and employees.
Even faster than you might anticipate, employees will build long-lasting connections with the organizations they volunteer with and the communities those organizations are located in. Sometimes, certain employees already have a relationship with the organization, and now they are introducing the non-profit to a new group of eager volunteers. These connections can take the form of employees choosing to volunteer on their own time, taking a board or advisory role with the organization, or simply choosing to volunteer for the same project year after year.
Be sure that volunteer opportunities are designed so employees have the opportunity to work with other business units and with colleagues from different levels of the organization. A volunteering opportunity can be a great time to break down silos and build new connections by mixing up volunteers from different teams. If you can get your CEO or other senior executives out there with employees, they will really make an impression.
There's a growing trend toward aligning your volunteer program with your business objectives. Whatever it is your business does, find a way to bring that skill to the community. For a financial company, that could include holding financial literacy sessions, helping non-profits build strategic plans, or pro bono consulting on a non-profit's fundraising goals and strategy. (For a financial company, financial literacy efforts could also result in Community Reinvestment Act credit.)
A volunteer program is a great way to empower new leaders or employees who may not have leadership responsibilities in their day-to-day work. Often, an employee will have a suggestion for a volunteer project that she or he would like the company to support. This is a great time to empower that employee as the leader of the project, and to put that individual in charge of working with the non-profit and driving interest in the opportunity among his or her colleagues. It's great leadership practice for the employee and a chance for him or her to gain some additional visibility with management.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, volunteering is an important way to boost morale, engagement and team spirit among employees. In good times and bad, volunteering gives employees something to celebrate and feel good about. Working together on a shared task that benefits others can be an enormous source of pride in themselves and their company for employees.
When employees see their colleagues out volunteering, when they see people helping each other, they feel good. And if you feel good about your company's volunteer efforts, you feel good about your company.
To learn more about volunteerism, view another recent blog post by Stacy Papas,
"Best Practices and Trends for Running a Corporate Volunteer Program."
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The world of volunteerism is being injected with new ideas and activities that are moving the philanthropic sector beyond its traditional roots. Here are some of the latest trends in corporate volunteerism.