The case for corporate volunteer programs

Social studies teachers often use the image of the three-legged stool to teach about the branches of the U.S. government. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches work together to hold up the stool and make it stable. You can think of corporate giving programs like a three-legged stool as well: employee giving, corporate gift matching, and employee volunteer programs. When you have all three in place, you will have a much more robust corporate philanthropy program.

The third leg, volunteer programs (often called employee volunteer programs or EVPs), can sometimes get overlooked, threatening the strength of the whole program. Effective employee volunteer programs can make a significant difference for a company and should receive just as much attention as the other aspects of corporate philanthropy.

Increase Employee Skills

Businesses spend substantial amounts of money on training for employees, often on “soft” skills like team building, problem solving, and leadership. Employees can reap many of the same benefits of those training programs through volunteering, where they spend concentrated time working in the community alongside community members and other volunteers.

A report by Junior Achievement, an organization that promotes volunteerism in classrooms, shows that employees demonstrate competency gains of 14 to 17 percent as a direct result of volunteering. The report also found that 70 percent of young workers believe volunteering is a useful professional development tool.

When employees volunteer, they work on those soft skills of team building, problem solving, and leadership that all companies know are the hallmarks of great employees. The best part is that it all happens without the company spending any additional funds on expensive training programs. Strong employees lead to a strong business.

Increase Employee Engagement

Not only will employees receive training and development through corporate volunteer programs, they will also become more engaged with their employer. Employees who volunteer report greater job satisfaction, remain at companies longer, and feel better about their employer.

An employee’s emotional engagement should never be discounted, especially in light of a recent Gallup poll, which reported that 71 percent of American workers do not feel engaged with their employer. When employees feel good about their employer, they become your best ally, your best spokesperson, and your best voice in the community at large.

Strengthen Community Perception

How a community perceives a company will ultimately affect the success of that company. If a community feels like a company is cold, distant, and uncaring, then its members will remain disconnected from the corporation. If a corporation reaches out to a community, then community perceptions can change. Building a strong connection to the community is also an essential part of an effective employee recruitment program.

Corporate volunteer programs work effectively to strengthen community perceptions of a company because the programs put a human face on the company. Through their efforts, your employees make a positive difference, and everyone comes away from the experience with a stronger idea of what a corporation values as its core mission.

Improve the Bottom Line

So far, we’ve explored how corporate volunteer programs can enhance the “soft” characteristics of a company. But these programs and less tangible markers like employee engagement, community perception, and employee skills also directly impact the hard and fast numbers on the bottom line.

After all, companies are not non-profit organizations and, at the end of the day, you are in business to turn a profit. The Harvard Business Review identified the employee-customer-profit chain back in 1998, finding unequivocally that employee satisfaction led to customer satisfaction, which led to increased profits.

We already know employee volunteer programs lead to greater employee satisfaction, and so it naturally follows that they also lead to increased profits as well.

A two-legged stool will fall over. Your corporate giving program needs all three legs to stand strong and thrive. To see results for your employees, your community, and your bottom line, make corporate volunteer programs an important part of your overall strategy.

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