3 Benefits of Volunteering As a Company

Guest post by Alison Grenkie

A version of this story first appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

The Company that Volunteers Together Stays TogetherPicking up garbage. Growing mustaches. Cycling for a cure. Selling baked goods. Rocking out for a cause.

And that’s just the beginning! There are all kinds of things that you can do to give back to the community and raise awareness or money for an issue you care about.

Increasingly, regular businesses are incorporating volunteering activities like the above into their company culture – and seeing some pretty amazing benefits!

1. Happier & Healthier Employees
There’s a growing body of research suggesting that those who regularly volunteer experience a wide variety of physical, mental and emotional health benefits.

For example, volunteering has been shown to lessen symptoms of chronic pain, heart disease and depression, while also reducing stress and improving overall mental health. One 2013 study reported that 76% of U.S. adults who volunteer say that volunteering has made them feel physically healthier, while 78% say that volunteering lowers their levels of stress.

Why would a business want happier, healthier employees? Because health and happiness create a ripple effect of positivity that includes increased productivity, reduced absenteeism and even improved customer satisfaction!

 2. Encourage Team-Building
The company that volunteers together, stays together!

Many of the typical team-building activities are, let’s face it, a little bit hokey. Whether they have their merits is a discussion for another time. But there’s no arguing that volunteering has intrinsic value all on its own.

There’s a lot to be said for getting out of the day-to-day work environment and uniting coworkers in a common and worthwhile goal. Volunteering builds camaraderie and promotes empathy, simultaneously connecting coworkers and communities.

 3. Boost Employee Satisfaction
We’ve been talking about “work-life balance” for so long now that the phrase has lost meaning for many of us. The separation between work and life is increasingly hard to define.

The result is that both employers and employees are expecting more from each other. With mobile technology we’re constantly connected, and employers are encroaching more and more on the personal. Employees, meanwhile, are looking for employers that reflect their values and help them to express their own.

By incorporating volunteering into a benefits package that prioritizes work-life balance, companies are recognizing that their employees have passions outside of the office and are supporting them in the pursuit of those passions. Bakers and bikers alike are encouraged to show off their skills for a worthy cause. They’ll thank you for it with their loyalty – employee retention is directly tied to how people feel about their work-life balance.

The Moral of the Story
Volunteering is a gift that keeps on giving. So whether you hold direct sway over your company’s culture – as an HR employee or as a small business owner, for example – or you’re just one employee trying to make a difference, it’s time for a shift in perspective. Start thinking about volunteering as an investment: in yourself, and in your company’s success.

Alison Grenkie is a marketer and blogger who is passionate about volunteering, travel, and environmental issues. Follow her on LinkedIn for more insights.

Image Source: HubSpot Free Stock Photos

A Path for Change Appears – The Business Angle

Guest post by Kori Reed, vice president, Cause & Foundation, ConAgra Foods

A Path Appears - The Business Angle“Have courage and be kind.”

This is the mom wisdom from the 2015 Disney adaptation of the famous Cinderella story, and is, in essence, the theme of the movie.

As Washington Post Express film reporter Kristen Page-Kirby wrote, “What ‘Cinderella’ shows is that you can have courage, and you can be kind, and it might suck.” Those of us who work in corporate contributions or community engagement can relate.

After all, companies are made up of kind people – caring real-life mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, caregivers and more – and the entity as a whole is responsible for turning a profit for owners and investors. Our peers from finance and supply chain often don’t see our work on balanced scorecards, therefore, some of them struggle to see the strategy behind it. Yes, being kind and making friends on behalf of the company, while very rewarding, can suck for that reason.

Yet, much like our company peers, we are problem solvers on a regular basis. In our case, it’s solving problems in the community. While company project managers use the language of analyze, plan, do, check, our words include pilot testing, scaling ideas, off-setting labor costs via volunteerism, evidence-based interventions and pathways to prosperity.

So, how do we tackle an issue like poverty? Start with what works. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, award winning journalists did just that in their most recent book, A Path Appears. It includes pages of evidence-based ways to create opportunity among our nation’s and world’s most vulnerable. It is a call to action for individuals, communities and corporations alike, to be courageous and show kindness by helping others. (If you coordinate volunteerism for the company, the later chapters even address the benefits of that work. Helping others really helps us too!)

They include the role of business in creating pathways, and for me, that hit the sweet-spot. At ConAgra Foods, we know so well how hunger at a young age can harm a child’s chances for future growth, both physically and mentally.

As a visual learner, I reached out to WuDunn to develop the map of a path, a kind of a Chutes and Ladders for Life. In corporate speak, think of this as a human process maps. I hope it shows how possible it is for us to be strategic as well as kind, and do our part to break the cycle of poverty, a large complex issue that so encumbers our society and societies around the world.

It is in our collective interest that people have the ability purchase the goods and services we offer. Here’s hoping this visual path gives people the courage to jump in and sparks an idea for how to be kind to others in a way that creates opportunity for all. Alignment toward a goal is what we business people do well. Walking a path again and again also helps others see it more clearly. Have courage, and be kind; start here.

CSR Food For Thought: The Rise of B Corps

VolunteerMatch's CSR Food for Thought SeriesThe CSR Food for Thought series is a roundup of relevant news from around the web that you may have missed last week, presented to you in one bite-sized post.

The Best B Corps Might Just Be the Best Companies for the World
There’s no denying it – B Corps are gaining popularity across the U.S. and the world. Since 2012, the number of certified B Corps increased from 500 to 1,200. That’s 140%. This Fast Company article takes a look at the recently released Best for the World list, and how this new form of CSR is growing and shifting.

What Etsy, Patagonia and Warby Parker Have in Common
If the title of this roundup hasn’t given it away already, the answer is: Etsy, Patagonia and Warby Parker are all certified B Corps. And Etsy, with their initial public offering last week, has become the second publically traded B Corp. This Washington Post article gives a thorough explanation of what it means to be a B Corp by answering five common questions about the certification.

GoDaddy and DotGreen Join in Earth Day Promotion
In a creative CSR move, GoDaddy is making it more affordable for other companies to tell their CSR stories. In honor of Earth Day, GoDaddy’s offering a 30% discount on new .green domain registrations through the end of April. This is a great way for companies to illustrate their sustainability efforts online. Thanks, GoDaddy!

What to Ask Yourself When Your Employees Are Afraid to Commit
Just because your employees are staying with your company (for now), it doesn’t mean they have the right kind of commitment to your company. This Realized Worth article looks at the three different types of commitment, including the ideal type: Affective Commitment. How do you foster affective commitment in your employees? You guessed it. Give them the chance to do good.

Follow us on Twitter for CSR news and trends throughout the week: @VM_Solutions.

“Come Together” at the 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit

Come Together at the 2015 VolunteerMatch SummitAt VolunteerMatch, we believe everyone should have the chance to make a difference. And for over 15 years, we have been connecting companies with nonprofits through our easy technology.

Amazing things have taken place online – we’ve made over 9 million volunteer/ nonprofit connections! Now, we’re bringing our communities together offline for a one-of-a-kind event.

Always a Unique Space for Collaboration. Even Better in 2015.

The VolunteerMatch Summit is a place for like-minded professionals in the fields of employee engagement and corporate responsibility to get together, share best practices, and learn from industry experts. The previous 13 Summits have only been open to VolunteerMatch corporate clients.

This year, we’re going even bigger and have invited companies far and wide who are committed to community engagement. And we’re not stopping there. We’re also creating a collaborative place for national nonprofits to join the conversation.

This year, all attendees will “Come Together” to explore ways to work across sections, harnessing knowledge, resources and passions of volunteers to solve the world’s most pressing problems.

Highlights of the 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit include a plenary session from Derreck Kayongo, Founder of the Global Soap Project, as well as panels of experts, interactive workshops, and networking opportunities.

Save the Date: December 1 & 2, 2015 in Oakland, CA.

Registration opens June 2015. Learn more.

Corporate/ Nonprofit Partnerships Can Save the World (And We Can Help, Too)

worldWhile a big check is nice, it’s not going to cut it these days. Corporate social responsibility is NOT about how much money your company can give.

It requires planning. It requires creativity. Most importantly, it requires deliberate and strategic partnerships with nonprofits whose work aligns with your company’s mission.

(For more on why multi-faceted nonprofit partnerships are important, check out this webinar we hosted in December 2014 with CSR expert Susan McPherson.)

Because we know the importance of these partnerships, and because we know it can be daunting when you don’t know where to start, VolunteerMatch Solutions helps companies work better with nonprofits in three main ways.

VolunteerMatch Solutions’ Tools
VolunteerMatch partner companies have access to the web’s largest network of nonprofits seeking assistance: The VolunteerMatch Network. It includes nearly 100,000 nonprofits across the country (and increasingly, across the world). In seconds, your company and its employees can find volunteer opportunities that fit your specific corporate goals.

Building Corporate Nonprofit PartnershipsAnd once you find your nonprofit partners, it’s easy to feature them on your company’s custom volunteer site, making your partnerships prominently visible to all your employees. There’s many more ways to grow these partnerships through our tools, such as recruiting employee volunteers for a specific nonprofit’s event, or even sponsoring a nonprofit’s own custom VolunteerMatch site. To learn more about our corporate tools, watch our demo.

Growing Your Specific Initiatives
When simply searching for volunteer opportunities isn’t enough, we help you go above and beyond. For example, in 2014, we partnered with Walmart Foundation for their Fighting Hunger Together Initiative. Together, we trained more than 3,000 volunteer coordinators at hunger-fighting organizations to more effectively recruit and manage volunteers. We also created over $171 million in social value that continues to help Americans get the healthy food they need. Whatever your cause, we’ll work with you so you can have the most impact, where it matters most.

2015 VolunteerMatch Summit
We believe the world’s most pressing problems can best be solved through cross-sector collaboration. And what better setting to share resources, knowledge and passion for change than face-to-face? For-profit and nonprofit organizations don’t always get this opportunity, which is why we decided to create it.

For the past 13 years, VolunteerMatch has hosted a Summit for its corporate clients, offering a space for like-minded CSR professionals to gather and share ideas. This year, however, we are opening our Summit doors to non-client companies, as well as national nonprofits. Learn more about this one-of-a-kind event.

At VolunteerMatch, we know that corporate/ nonprofit partnerships are the key to real social change. Let’s all come together to make a difference.

CSR Food For Thought: A Look Back on National Volunteer Week

Image of wheat growing in the sun.The CSR Food for Thought series is a roundup of relevant news from around the web that you may have missed last week, presented to you in one bite-sized post.

In case you missed it, last week was National Volunteer Week. I was blown away by the amount of companies that celebrated by giving back to their communities and recognizing their employee volunteers. Here is just a sample:

Celebrating National Volunteer Week by Contributing to a Better Future
This heartfelt post from AT&T employee Monique Weber illustrates how volunteering changes lives on both an individual and a global scale. AT&T has allowed her to pursue her personal volunteer passion of empowering women leaders. As Monique puts it, “I’m thankful to work for a company that promotes such important, impactful programs.”

4 Benefits of Volunteering as a Company
In this LinkedIn post, Alison Grenkie of Intelex Technologies explains why National Volunteer Week isn’t just for nonprofit organizations to recognize their volunteers. From employee happiness to enhanced company reputation, it’s easy to see why companies should get involved. After all, “The company that volunteers together stays together.”

Volunteers – A Critical Contribution to Our Communities
Microsoft used National Volunteer Week as an opportunity to thank its motivated employee volunteers, who recently spearheaded the creation of the Tech Talent for Good program with their question, “How can we do more?” This post is full of appreciation – just the way we like it!

5 Reasons Why Green Volunteering is Red Hot
Picking up trash doesn’t sound very glamourous. But when it’s done with coworkers? The benefits can be astounding. In this post, Verizon employee Abigail Ashley explains the benefits she sees from volunteering with her coworkers, both personally and professionally.

Follow us on Twitter for CSR news and trends throughout the week: @VM_Solutions.

Better Together: NYC Service & VolunteerMatch

“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” -Harry S. Truman

VolunteerMatch and NYC Service PartnershipIf you’ve spent any time working in the nonprofit sector, you know that there is a cultural expectation to publicly avoid the appearance of competition between organizations…even when (actually, particularly when) they are in fact competing.

So it would be polite to say that NYC Service and VolunteerMatch have for many years been working in the same space…with a shared goal of making it easier for New Yorkers to find volunteer opportunities.

But now, thanks to the leadership of the city’s Chief Service Officer Paula Gavin and her team at NYC Service, we don’t have to say that anymore because now we can say we are partnering to achieve that goal together.

That is right, just in time for National Volunteer Week (April 12-18), NYC Service is breaking new ground to become the first City of Service in the nation to adopt VolunteerMatch’s free Public Use API.

What does this mean? Read the full post from VolunteerMatch President Greg Baldwin.