Volunteering & Giving Back: The Employee Perk You Shouldn’t Skip

Forget the Ping Pong tables and the snack bars. Yes, your staff enjoys benefits and perks associated with their jobs, but what they really want is a purpose and an organization that’s investing in social good. According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report by Achieve Consulting, more than half of surveyed millennials said their company’s charitable work influenced their decision to accept a job offer. In fact, the individuals polled for that report ranked a company’s volunteerism program third in importance behind the primary purpose and its workplace culture. Think about that for a moment. While that survey took a look at a specific age group, it’s a safe bet that such efforts transcend a single generation. Whether you’re a small business owner or a leader in a large corporation, service opportunities need to be on your radar.

Give Them Time

You give your staff vacation time. You also give them personal time and/or sick days. What about volunteer time off (VTO)? According to the 2018 Employee Benefits Report by the Society of HR Management, 1 in 4 employers in the US offer such a benefit. On average, companies offering this paid-time off grant between 8 and 40 hours per year, although some organizations offer more.

Salesforce, for example, offers their employees up to 7 days a year (56 hours) for volunteering. According to the company’s benefits page, “The top 100 eligible volunteers will be rewarded with a $10,000 grant to the nonprofit organization of their choice. In addition, employees who complete and log 7 days of VTO within a fiscal year are considered “Volunteer Rockstars” and are entered into a drawing to receive a $500 Volunteer Rockstar Grant!”

Even small businesses can take a page from this sort of policy. You may not have the budget to donate a million dollars in grants, but you can support your team’s efforts by making it easier for them to give their time to a cause.

The Team That Serves Together

What do Merck, Deloitte, and Starbucks have in common? These corporate giants all dedicate at least one day a year for corporate-wide service. Employees roll up their sleeves and work together in teams to serve their communities. They may be reading to students in their community schools. They might be cleaning a park or assisting on a Habit for Humanity building project. These dedicated all-hands-on-deck service days accomplish a few things. Not only is a great way for your business to put its money where its mouth is regarding social responsibility, it’s also a great team-building exercise.

Match Your Service to Your Culture

There is a plethora of really awesome nonprofit organizations out there, but not every nonprofit is the right fit for your corporate service day. Take the time to identify organizations that are in line with your corporate mission and values.

Also, keep in mind that not every nonprofit is equipped to handle a large group of volunteers in one block. Reach out to local agencies and find out what their needs are and how your organization may fit into that equation. Depending on the size of your firm, you may need to divide into several small groups and work with multiple nonprofits across the span of the day.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box, too. Does your team feel strongly about helping the local homeless shelter? That’s awesome. Maybe the shelter doesn’t have hands-on tasks for the number of volunteers you want to send there, but that doesn’t mean you have to look for another place to lavish some love on. You could host an event that raises funds and resources for the shelter, as one example. You could host an event at your facility or another locale for shelter residents (and others!) that offered warm meals, additional support resources and/or some fun and games. Work with your staff and the groups you wish to support to tailor service opportunities that are right for both organizations.

No Effort is Too Small

Maybe you’re managing a remote team that makes an all-hands-on-deck service day difficult or you’re not sure your current staffing needs can manage more time off. You’re sitting here thinking, “This all sounds great, Cheryl, but I don’t see how it’s going to work for my business.” Let’s be clear, the examples above are just that, examples. You can tailor a program that highlights your commitment to giving back and meshes with your budget, size, and abilities.

Get creative. Did a team member just devote a weekend to organizing an awareness walk to support families impacted by opioid abuse? Give them a shout-out in your team meeting and acknowledge their awesomeness! Got an employee that’s asked to leave early next Friday so she can make it to an event that’s raising funds to support breast cancer research? Ask her how you can make a donation in her name. Did you hear about a team member who is collecting items for a gift auction to raise funds for her favorite nonprofit? Donate a product your company sells for the auction. Supporting the causes that are important to your employees (and that complement your corporate values) is a small way of saying to your team “You’re valuable to this company and we support you.”