While previously, volunteering was thought of as an external entity from the workplace, more and more companies are integrating programs that allow staff members to give back. There’s a reason for this trend, too. The benefits of workplace volunteering are plenty – from improved employee morale to a boost in employee happiness and engagement. While companies can create online courses, implement mentorship programs and design dynamic learning opportunities through online training software, some of these volunteering programs can provide additional opportunities for skills or leadership development. So it goes without saying that as firms look for new ways to engage their staff and gain a competitive edge, they will likely be embracing philanthropy in the years to come.
Giving back at work
In a new survey by America’s Charities, 68 percent of employers said that their staff expects them to support volunteering. Not only that, but they have specific requirements for these initiatives: the ability to use work time to volunteer, opportunities to engage in skills-based volunteer activities, matching gifts for their contributions.
Half of employers are already seeing year-round participation in their workplace giving programs. While the overwhelming majority – 80 percent – of businesses offer employees the opportunity to give to charities through automatic payroll deductions, another 70 percent commit to matching gifts from staff members. Meanwhile, 60 percent are using contests as a way to make workplace giving programs more fun and interesting for participants.
Higher retention is not the only reward that comes with implementing corporate philanthropy programs, either. A study by UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute found that a whopping 76 percent of U.S. adults who volunteer say that doing so has made them feel more physically healthy. Moreover, 78 percent insist that volunteering reduced stress – a notable link for firms that are aiming to prevent employee burnout. Obviously, healthy employees with lower stress levels are more productive, engaged and happy. It’s also worth noting that these health benefits translate into lower health care costs for employers.
“The business community, the health sector, individuals and families all have a stake in building a healthier future for our nation, and that begins with improving our communities’ health in ways that are sustainable and affordable,” said Dr. Carol Simon, director of the Optum Institute. “Volunteering builds health outside traditional clinical settings by engaging people in activities that strengthen communities and personal health at the same time – a win-win for everyone.”
As an added bonus, the UnitedHealth Group survey participants that volunteer also admitted that they feel a stronger bond to colleagues as well as a deeper connection to others, which can be a significantly valuable quality in a client-facing organization. They also reported that volunteer activities allowed them to enhance their teamwork and time-management skills.
Other studies have shown that corporate social responsibility programs may strengthen internal and external business relationships. A recent report published in the American Marketing Association’s Journal of Marketing revealed that charitable giving and volunteering initiatives, specifically those that are environmentally focused, can make employees feel more connected to both customers and their organizations.
“Employees told us that CSR can be an ice breaker in conversations with customers,” explained Daniel Korschun of Drexel University. “Once they find out that a customer shares a passion for social or environmental causes, it can create a bond that is highly motivating.”
Still, not all corporate philanthropy initiatives are created equal. Forbes pointed out that for these programs to be effective, the organization must go beyond a one-day or seasonal giving event, taking a more holistic view of the impact that philanthropic efforts can have, and furthermore, making use of all possible resources to reach a commitment goal. Furthermore, upper management needs to take an active and visible part in enacting these programs.