Businesses regularly support community and charitable causes with generous donations. Trends are changing, though. “Checkbook charity” is being replaced, or at least augmented, with hands-on employee-driven volunteerism.
Some examples of employee volunteering and community involvement: Repairing homes for the elderly, tutoring school children, delivering meals to the homebound, creating and building the award-winning float in the local community parade.
In one community, an insurance agency’s employees teamed up, using donated paint and supplies, to paint, repair and clean up 85 homes. They also financially support and donate countless hours of companionship to children at a local orphanage.
Some employers even allow employees to do community service on company time. For example, employee do volunteer service for United Way agencies on company time. Arrangements vary. Some allow a half-day a week. Others use a “matching time” arrangement: an employee uses up to 2 1/2 days of vacation time for volunteer service, and the employer matches with 2 1/2 additional paid days off.
Some large employers grant employees a whole year of paid leave to volunteer full-time for an eligible nonprofit agency.
Increasing numbers of employers also allow more employee input to corporate charitable giving. Some employers match employees’ gifts to cultural groups, colleges, United Way, hospitals, primary and secondary schools, human services agencies, flood and earthquake relief. Another trend is for an employer to promote itself as champion of a single cause.
Critics say supporting of good causes is more for good marketing than for good deeds, in an era when it’s difficult to attract attention with traditional advertising. Some employers may be spending more money advertising their interest in the good cause than they actually spend on the cause.
Supporters say employers and their employees are sincerely looking for better ways to expand their “corporate citizenship.” “Making the world a better place to live” has become a corporate goal.
Wanting to give back comes from understanding that the advantages some hold are in part a product of their ability to profit from opportunity provided by circumstances, events, or the help of others,” wrote Joline Godfrey, author of Our Wildest Dreams: Women Entrepreneurs Making Money, Doing Good, Having Fun.
What Are the Benefits to the Employer?
- It’s certainly good for the employer’s public image. Good publicity benefits the bottom line and may even multiply efforts by motivating other employers to get involved.
- It’s good for employees’ morale and their pride in the company or organization. Employees like to feel that they make a difference. Employers with active volunteer programs believe it helps them attract desirable employees and have lower turnover.
- On-the-job activism enriches employees by providing new perspectives. Employees volunteering at shelters and food kitchens report greater appreciation for having a job. They look at others who are jobless or homeless and are reminded, “That could be me.”
- Young employees can gain important leadership skills from their community service opportunities, advancing and enhancing their job performance.
How to Start Volunteering
Some ways you can initiate community service activities by employees:
- Have a plan. Select a specific project. Solicit employee suggestions.
- Convene representatives from across your workforce to identify a mission and the goals of a volunteer initiative, and how to implement it effectively.
- Start small. Start with something likely to be successful and rewarding.
- Build partnerships with local civic agencies or your Chamber of Commerce.