A recent announcement by the Corporation for National and Community Service revealed that 582,000 Americans applied during the past year to serve in the AmeriCorps – an increase of almost 10 percent or 50,000 applications on the previous year. The Corps, however, has turned away close to one million potential volunteers since 2009 due to a lack of funding, and those people are looking for somewhere else to volunteer. A corporate volunteer program (CVP) offers multiple benefits to your company and employees, as well as the causes they take up.
Corporate America is catching on to the value of establishing CVPs, with almost one-third of corporations now offering some form of volunteerism for their staff – a growth of 150 percent over the past two decades.
Large corporations have the resources to introduce volunteer programs that create high-value social impact in emerging markets by specializing in international, pro bono assignments. Small businesses can empower employees to engage in meaningful, skills-based volunteer activities in their local communities, which align with and benefit the company’s community engagement goals. No matter the size of your company, small businesses like AltruHelp and gothamCulture to large companies such as General Mills, Morgan Stanley, and Hewlett-Packard have been joining A Billion + Change, a national campaign to mobilize billions of dollars of pro bono and skills-based volunteer service from corporate America by 2013. Since the summer of 2011, more than $1.6 billion of skills-based volunteer services has been contributed.
Benefits to the Company
Fortune magazine’s annual survey of the most admired corporations ranks corporate citizenship as a major aspect of public credibility. It’s also widely accepted in the 21st century that employee volunteering is important to a company’s corporate social responsibility strategy. An established volunteer program has been shown to be highly effective in recruiting and retaining a quality work force, improve workforce loyalty, increase the health and wellbeing of the employees and reduce stress. In addition, it improves the company’s competitive advantage in the community, by boosting the in-house skills of the staff and the firm’s reputation.
Benefits to Staff
United Technologies in Hartford, Connecticut, has found that potential employees sourced from learning institutions such as MIT and Wharton ask specifically about volunteering and community service, indicating that it is one of the criteria for an “employer of choice.” Meanwhile, a survey on volunteering conducted amongst national college graduates listed some of the professional benefits as experience in strategic planning, improved understanding government policies, the advantage of working with community leaders, and exposure to social patterns. Expanding one’s network of business contacts also featured high on the list of successful options.
Companies that sponsor or support volunteer programs report that doing so helps them to attract and retain talented employees. So what is it about these programs that interests high caliber people so much? The chance to help others, that’s what. Most people would love to be able to make a difference by doing service as a volunteer. The difficulty is that our lives are so busy and we spend so many hours at our jobs that there is little time left for family and leisure, let alone volunteer activities. The opportunity to fit volunteering into work time, or have it facilitated by an employer in some way, vastly increases the capacity of the average employee to volunteer his or her services.
And what about from the viewpoint of the company in its marketplace? Well, let’s find out what the execs think. A survey conducted by The Conference Board showed that most executives found employee skills improved because of volunteering like communication abilities such as verbal and written skills, time management and organization abilities, planning, budgeting and allocation skills, handling pressure and establishing priorities. All these skills benefitted the employees’ work, making the company more efficient and competitive. Soft skills were also enhanced, including respect for diversity, an expanded sense of community, and developing pride and responsibility in their circles of influence.
Whether your business is a large conglomerate with operations worldwide, or a small, local company with its roots in the community, a corporate volunteer program can benefit both you, the business owner and your employees. Give your staff members the chance to participate in activities that help them to help others and enable them to gain skills that improve their work. Develop your company’s reputation for caring, and enjoy the advantage of positive, word-of-mouth advertising and improved corporate citizenship.