As another January nears its end, for some of us, dreams of fulfilled New Year’s resolutions stubbornly persist. Formerly abandoned gyms bustle with the swell of newcomers. Credit cards remain tucked away in wallets and purses following pledges to save more money. Dog-eared pages of diet book recipes dominate kitchen counter tops.
At least, for a little while longer.
And yet, for businesses and business leaders, things are no different. The new year also presents a golden opportunity for them to define important goals. One such goal is to develop new ways to volunteer and give back more. Nearly everyone recognizes the virtue and value in community service and giving back. But, like other New Year’s resolutions, it requires commitment and investment that can be hard to sustain.
Despite the difficulties, however, businesses of all sizes can find easy ways to encourage and facilitate volunteering and giving back. The five tips below provide a good starting point.
1. Offer Paid Time Off for Volunteering
Consider offering employees annual paid time off (PTO) for volunteering. Whether it’s for eight hours or 24 hours, giving your employees PTO for volunteering avoids forcing them to choose between taking time for themselves, and taking time to serve their communities. It also requires minimal investment from the business, as compared to certain other altruistic efforts.
2. Provide Board Service Grants
Many businesses encourage their employees to serve on boards of community focused organizations. Board service not only offers potential career development opportunities for employees, but it also can lead to positive visibility for the businesses represented on the board. A good way to inspire and reward board service is to provide small grants to the organizations your employees serve. These funds demonstrate your business’s commitment to its employees and the community at large. Just be sure to verify the employees’ actual participation on the boards, so that the grants are meaningful and deserved.
3. Be Flexible With the Organizations Your Business Supports
Don’t handcuff employees to a short list of organizations or causes for which they can volunteer with the business’s support. Instead, let employees partner with whatever altruistic organizations or causes they want. This will foster greater enthusiasm by enabling the employees to pursue volunteer opportunities that align with their passions, interests, and skills.
4. Make Volunteering a Priority in the Budget
Every company has a litany of considerations to cram into its budget, but volunteering should be high on the list. Dollars spent on even small things can make a big impact. For instance, providing t-shirts with the company logo to volunteering employees helps show solidarity and boost morale. Similarly, providing coffee and bagels for early morning volunteering events can give an extra jolt of energy to those participating.
5. Help Nonprofits Compensate for Their Costs
One often overlooked consideration is that there’s a financial cost to volunteering—a cost borne at least as much by the nonprofits as the companies volunteering. When 50 volunteers show up for a volunteer activity, the nonprofit group must expend time and resources to train and manage the volunteers. This undoubtedly impacts the nonprofit’s bottom line. So, as your business develops relationships with certain nonprofits through employee volunteer events, consider contributing to the nonprofits to help them recoup some of the costs they incur by hosting volunteer events.
Lastly, it’s easy to focus on the feel-good, moralistic aspects of community service, but giving back also provides tangible business benefits. Because community service is an investment in the community, which includes your customer base, it can boost your business’s reputation among its customers. Additionally, a study has shown that a business’s encouragement of community service improves employee retention, enhances professional development, aids recruitment, and fosters skill building.
So, whether motivated by benevolence or the bottom line, it pays for businesses to help their employees give back.
Stephen L. Ball is Government Affairs Counsel for CSAA Insurance Group. In 2015, CSAA Insurance Group, achieved an employee volunteer participation rate of 98 percent, the highest of any company with more than 3,000 employees. For more information about Stephen, see his LinkedIn page.