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Giving Is Good Business

Giving Is Good Business

Thanksgiving is a time when most of us are feeling charitable. It's also when our employers are apt to hit us up for donations to their favorite causes -- gifts from our checkbooks and increasingly, of our time, expertise and elbow grease. A study of 50 major US companies and 40 nonprofits by philanthropic advisors LBG Associates titled "Measuring Corporate Volunteerism" shows "a growing commitment to community involvement."

Benefits to Both Workers and Companies

The research shows companies with volunteerism programs benefit the community, their employees and the companies themselves.

"People like to know they're working for a company that cares, that's not just concerned with making a buck," says Linda B. Gornitsky, PhD, president and founder of LBG Associates. Gornitsky authored the study to find out what motivates companies to volunteer and what program structures are most likely to succeed.

"From the community perspective, having businesspeople out there helping not-for-profits address social needs is wonderful," Gornitsky says. "And they need not just bodies but expertise. If an accountant or lawyer provides pro bono services, that can save a nonprofit a lot of money."

And companies benefit from increased recognition in the community. "Volunteering helps develop relationships with key stakeholders and puts a positive face on the company," Gornitsky says.

What's in it for employees? "Volunteering helps improve employee morale and helps employees feel better about their employers," she says. "It's a great way to develop leadership skills, and it's good for team building."

Get into Volunteering

Workplace volunteerism needn't be another high-stress to-do item on an already jam-packed calendar. What's the secret?

"The major complaint from employees isn't that they're too busy," Gornitsky says. "Employees' number one reason they don't volunteer is they don't get adequate communication about the event."

To get willing employees to volunteer, Gornitsky suggests:

  • Inform employees about events far enough in advance so they can schedule their time.
  • Communicate what's involved. People don't volunteer because they're scared. If companies did a better job of communicating and training, more employees would participate.
  • Ask employees personally to volunteer. Don't send an email, as people can delete or ignore it. Go around to cubicles and offices, and personally ask people to pitch in.

Gornitsky notes that charitable projects involving physical labor -- cleanups, building, painting, etc. -- are popular with desk jockeys eager to work for a cause. Not the hard-labor type? Tutors and mentors are always needed for a variety of programs, and in some cases, employees can donate their time and know-how from their computers.

Corporate volunteering doesn't have to be just one day a year or only during the holidays. Plenty of schools and organizations need volunteer brawn and brains year-round.

If your company hasn't been bitten by the giving bug, suggest a volunteerism program. "Seek out the volunteer coordinator, if there is one, and offer to help organize the day," Gornitsky says. "Approach peers to determine if there is an interest in volunteering and to learn what they might want to do. Offer to organize the event."

You'll work -- and sleep -- better for it.

Key Insight: Chief Execs Are Committed to Charity

Research shows that senior execs of major US companies are more charity-minded than the fancy offices, Armani suits and BMWs might imply. Gornitsky's study reveals corporate commitment to volunteerism starts at the top. Among the key findings:

  • One hundred percent of executives believe senior management should actively volunteer, and the same number of senior executives think their companies should financially support volunteerism.
  • Ninety-seven percent of senior executives believe their companies should have staff dedicated to facilitate volunterring.
  • Eighty-five percent of companies allow employees to volunteer during the workday.
  • Companies spend an average of $12.16 per employee to support volunteer programs.

Quick Tip: Get a Prospective Employer's Volunteer Score

Job seekers researching a potential employer should check on the company's volunteer program. This can give some insight into its corporate culture and business values.

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