You probably already know that December is the Month of Giving, but while some not-so-secretly think of it as a time to receive gifts, it’s also a time for reflection and selfless action to benefit others. This sentiment is easily threaded into the idea of corporate social responsibility (CSR), as companies think of their new year strategies. While complex plans and signficant donations may be top-of-mind for some, don’t forget the simple action of volunteering.
As we continue our Know Better, Do Better Series, we’d like to look at how volunteering can be an excellent exercise in employee engagement and service to customers as an extension of the community.
Why volunteering is important
Volunteering, in general, has been a personal endeavor for most people, or part of fraternal/club activities. However, creating it as a CSR initiative can help take companies beyond sometimes impersonal charitable contributions to building community and brand awareness.
Volunteering is rooted in service and the need to help others. Volunteers share skills, knowledge, resources, and more for the benefit of others. Organizations can think of engaging in volunteerism as a way of creating better customer experiences.
Because if you’re an employee who gains satisfaction and personal fulfillment from helping others in need, the same skills can be applied to employee engagement for greater customer satisfaction as well! This is the operational benefit of incorporating volunteer and charity work into your business. Of course, this shouldn’t be only tied to creating a more positive appearance for customers, but should be done in the vein of service. It is the Month of Giving, after all!
But connecting your CSR strategies with operations will always increase overall buy-in for plans, while also forming culture.
The benefits of volunteering
In addition to providing support to the community, volunteering offers many benefits to employees and companies.
For employees, the benefits include:
- Improving company culture
- Developing skills in professional development
- Improved employee engagement
- Gaining confidence and leadership skills
- Mental health and well-being improvement
- Targeting core values
- Building corporate culture
- Brand awareness
- Retaining talent
- Attracting talent
- Increasing employee satisfaction and engagement
- Improving productivity and advocacy
Initiatives to try
You don’t need elaborate strategies to get started in volunteering! What’s amazing is that volunteering can start from a single individual and increase to company-wide efforts. The sky is truly the limit. But if you’re a bit confused about how to start, here are some examples you can begin for yourself. Start simple, then build up as you go!
- Time off or paid “Volunteer Holidays” – This is the simplest option to initiate for your employees. Allowing them a few days a year to devote themselves to volunteer activities while also rewarding them for doing so is a great way to generate engagement and start small.
- Team building through service – Bring together small teams of maybe 4 to 6 people within departments to work together through volunteer work. You can even turn it into a fun activity where teams share pictures, stories, and discuss what it meant to them through presentations, social media, or other efforts to bring others together. You may find competitive spirits joining the fray because they don’t want to miss out on the fun!
- Departmental volunteering – Expanding from team building, departments can support causes or organizations that matter to their field, for example. Or, each department chooses an area to focus on—like educational rights for children, veterans, or the elderly, for example. This becomes a larger coordinated effort, but is still powered by human interaction and support. Plus, this type of activity encourages growing employee engagement outside of work.
- Company-wide volunteer events – On the largest scale, a company can decide to champion on a major cause to rally behind—such as sustainability, diversity, or STEM research, to list a few examples. This could even be a walk/run, a department sporting event where proceeds go to the intended cause, or planned outreach to events within the cause as a concerted effort to get all in the company involved.
Companies that inspire their community
If you’re looking for inspiration from other companies who have amazing or unique examples, look no further! We’ve curated a global list to help get your ideas flowing.
- 3M – The Visiting Wizards initiative allows students to have hands-on experiments and live demonstrations to keep them interested in science as part of their support of student interest in STEM research.
- IBM – The Corporate Service Corps launched in 2008 and involves participants in a four-month pro bono service assignment, sending 8-15 employees all over the world to assist companies and governments with healthcare, education, and economic development.
- Nielsen – Nielsen Global Impact Day mobilizes over 25,000 associates through pro bono, volunteering, and/or skills-based giving coordinated with local leaders to put people where they can have the most impact!
- PwC – The PricewaterhouseCoopers Young People Project is geared towards addressing youth unemployment issues in Canada by using technology to provide digital literacy.
- Comcast NBCUniversal – Comcast Cares Day is focused on revitalizing local parks and schools, putting together packages for veterans, and teaching the importance of digital literacy and job-ready skills.
Should CSR, then, be a voluntary activity? No, it should be part of your overall business strategy and woven into the fabric of your corporate culture. However, volunteerism in the corporate sector should include flexibility to allow employees to choose what they want to support. Through their service, the company grows brand awareness, a better sense of community, and sustainability for the environment and other important priorities.
A final word about volunteering
No matter where you take your inspiration from, volunteering is a well-being, mental health, and morale-improving activity at any level. In today’s world of customer-centric drive for interactions, understanding and supporting your community will always be in style!