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Dear Workforce What Value Might We Realize From Supporting Volunteerism

Dear Eager to Help:

Programs that support employee volunteerism have experienced considerable growth over the past decade. Although it’s difficult to quantify the value of any “soft” benefit, employers who support employee volunteerism report the following:

1. More and more employees of all ages are getting involved in not-for-profit community activities. The range of activities has grown, too. These programs can have a significant impact on recruitment and retention as employees select and stay with employers who support their non-work life.

2. Most employer/employee volunteerism varies by location. For example, in a large city, it may lean toward volunteer work for education and poverty issues. In a “green” state or area, it may be environmental issues.

3. It helps to align volunteer support with products and services. For example, a financial services company may throw its weight behind educational programs that lead to financial careers.

4. Employees feel a strong affiliation with the company when they are permitted to team with co-workers to carry out rewarding volunteer activities. This affiliation could have an impact on morale, commitment and retention

As for qualifiers: The fewer you include, the better. As pointed out earlier, volunteer preferences will vary considerably based on local community focus. On the other hand, if you want a program that’s aligned with your organization’s business, marketing and public affairs objectives, you may want to restrict the types of volunteerism you support.

Here are some examples of employers I’ve worked with that strongly support employee volunteerism:

  • Webster Bank in Waterbury, Connecticut. Webster pays employees for 16 volunteer hours per year. Last year more than 800 employees (about 20 percent) volunteered 65,000 hours of service. Fourteen won awards in Webster’s Volunteer Recognition Program.
  • Reader’s Digest in Pleasantville, New York. The Reader’s Digest Foundation is the impetus for numerous volunteer programs that focus on bringing education, literacy and learning experiences to children in underserved communities. Plus, the foundation supports employee personal causes through a Volunteer Incentive Program that pays grants on behalf of employees who volunteer.
  • CNA Corp. in Alexandria, Virginia. Volunteerism is embedded in its culture, having become “infectious,” in the words of one employee. For many years, its “Adopt a School” program has adopted a school across the street from its offices–and, as a thank you, students cross the street to perform at the company’s holiday party each year.
  • Desert Schools Federal Credit Union in Phoenix. Community involvement is one of Desert Schools’ “Big Four” corporate goals. Its “Communi-Team” even does the research for employees, selecting a worthy community event each month. Employees can just throw on their Communi-Team shirt and join the crowd.

SOURCE: Richard F. Federico, managing partner, Workplace Innovation, Bridgeport, Connecticut, April 29, 2005.

LEARN MORE:Alcoa Does Its Bit for the World. Also: Blue Cross’volunteerism policy.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.