On the eighth day of appreciation my HR gave to me, eight volunteer opportunities

Dec 27

By Jason Richmond, Founder, Ideal Outcomes, Inc.

It’s the time of year when we see Salvation Army bellringers raising funds for those in need and when many of us step forward to serve meals to the homeless and others less fortunate. The season is also when we appreciate everything that we have to be thankful for and are often inspired to give back to the community, including when we commit to volunteering and helping others—throughout the year.

Amid all the season’s themes, companies can—and should—take a leading role in supporting employees who wish to give of their time and money. 

In a survey of more than 1,600 workers from employers of all sizes and industries conducted by the nonprofit America’s Charities, 68 percent felt it was imperative or very important to be given paid time off to volunteer. That’s because it helped them feel connected to a larger mission and the chance to forge relationships with coworkers.

Oracle is a fine example of a company that has promoted volunteering for more than thirty years—and on an all-year-round basis. Every full-time employee is given up to 40 hours a year to volunteer for the causes that they prefer, whether it is working with the young (coaching students in coding and physical computing, for example), helping the elderly (writing letters to keep them connected), or supporting healthy planet initiatives. The company also matches employee charitable donations up to $1,000 per employee per year.

That’s the kind of corporate approach praised by America’s Charities, which represents over 130 nonprofit organizations in workplace giving campaigns for public and private sector employers. Kim Young, the organization’s vice president of business development, said, “When employees feel as though they have a choice in their workplace giving and volunteering, they feel engaged and are more likely to value the experience.”

From a company’s standpoint, many studies have shown that volunteer programs boost productivity and increase employee engagement while improving hiring and retention. A University of Vermont study found that job seekers were attracted to companies with volunteer programs for three reasons: pride in being associated with such a company, a match between their values and those of the company, and a sense that the firm would treat employees well. Apart from that, it’s proven that volunteering boosts an individuals’ sense of purpose, overall well-being, and physical and mental health. 

By volunteering, everyone benefits—the employee, the company, and, of course, the people on the receiving end of the giving. Volunteering is one of the noblest of human endeavors, and ideally, the spirit of the holiday season will live on throughout the year.