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Increase Engagement by Allowing Employees to Volunteer

goalSylvia Ann Hewlett wrote an article titled “Increase Engagement by Allowing Employees to Volunteer “ which appeared on the Harvard Business Review website. The following is an excerpt:

Volunteering has always been viewed as good for your soul. Now it turns out that it’s also good for your health and your career.

Recent research conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Corporation for National & Community Service reveals that charitable work literally makes the heart grow stronger, as reported in my book Top Talent: Keeping Performance Up When Business Is Down. Individuals with coronary artery disease who participate in volunteer activities after suffering a heart attack report a reduction in despair and depression, driving down mortality and adding years to life. It’s also true that those who volunteer have fewer incidents of heart disease in the first place…

Some of the best opportunities for volunteer work that benefits your karma and your career may come from your own company. Research from the Center for Work-Life Policy shows that high-potential employees (mostly women, but also a significant percentage of men) are seriously motivated by a desire to give back to the world, and increasingly seek out employers that allow them to participate on company time. Smart employers, in turn, are linking altruism and ambition. By using community service partnerships to help valued employees fulfill their dreams and accelerate their careers, companies are betting that their A-team’s enthusiasm will pay off in renewed engagement and loyalty.

This article prompted me to share some insights about corporate volunteering and international corporate social responsibility. I shared the following thoughts with Sylvia:

Thank you, Sylvia, for your wonderful blog post.

Volunteer work is definitely a win-win situation for everyone – the nonprofits, the volunteers and the companies for which they work. For each group, however, there are some important points to keep in mind. The following tips are insights I have gathered in leading (as founder and CEO) the nonprofit UniversalGiving, where we work with Fortune 500 companies on their Corporate Social Responsibility programs.

We’ll start with the benefits of employee volunteering to the companies. Volunteering is a key part of any CSR program. As such, it helps companies enhance their corporate brand image, improves employee attraction/retention as well as client attraction/retention, and establishes local buy-in, all of which helps a company’s bottom line while also serving the community.

One of the toughest issues companies face in implementing a top-quality CSR strategy is how they make decisions regarding their NGO Partners. Establishing and maintaining these partnerships should be made with care, and for the longterm. You can read more about Fortune 500 companies can protect themselves and their brand as they expand their international giving and volunteer programs worldwide in my blog post: Top 4 International Insights for Fortune 500 Companies.

Employees, just like the companies they work for, must also be diligent about choosing the right nonprofit with which to work. In order to maximize the return on their volunteer experience, employees should look for a nonprofit whose mission addresses the issues about which they are most passionate. They need to make sure the leadership and organizational structure of that nonprofit allow them to make the biggest impact using their current skills while also providing them the opportunity to learn new skills. I recently wrote an article for TILE Financial’s Spend Grow Give program , and although it is directed at volunteers in their teens, it is nonetheless an excellent resource for volunteers of any age seeking the best possible volunteer experience.

Nonprofits, in turn, can benefit most from corporate volunteers by establishing clear communication channels with them, finding out how they want to grow and contribute, and then determining how that fits with the nonprofit’s mission and vision. Expectations should be very clear on both sides. As in the corporate world, returns can be maximized for nonprofits. The goal is to efficiently use a nonprofit organization’s assets, in this case, its volunteers.

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