Encouraging Employees to Volunteer

Employers report improved employee morale as a result of their volunteer service activities. In addition, businesses which sponsor employee volunteerism report enhanced management and communication skills, and positive image-building in their communities.

The organization Business Strengthening America reached those conclusions after surveying 800 businesses on their community volunteer activities. Citing benefits of employee volunteerism, 96 percent of respondents said volunteering improved employee morale.

Another organization, Volunteer Match, has listed the following results of studies on employee volunteerism:

Studies on the positive effects of volunteering have come from sources like Harvard University, Cornell University and Bowling Green State University. Volunteering seems to be a natural painkiller. Even people with arthritis, headaches, back pain or other chronic conditions reported significant relief from pain while they were helping.

Feel-good brain chemicals known as "opioids" and bloodstream levels of immunoglobulin are believed to be released when one is involved with helping others, decreasing stress and enhancing immunity. The best results are achieved when a person:

  1. Works with strangers.
  2. Has personal contact with those being helped (better than writing a check).
  3. Volunteers once a week or more often.

Helping employees get involved in volunteer work can mean happier employees who have fewer health problems, and are thus more creative, energetic and therefore more productive employees.

To get started, try to find something you or your employees believe in passionately. It can be ideal to center company efforts on one selected cause, but at the same time, it can be wise to support employees' participation in varied causes of their own choosing.

Use your company's work skills to fill a local need. Example: A moving company helps relocate women and children in abusive homes. A company representative says employees volunteer again and again.

Many employees want to volunteer at something, but can't seem to find the time. Some employers now offer volunteering as a perk. Time off to volunteer comes during paid work hours. The employee donates skills and effort, the employer foots the bill.

Example: Wild Oats Markets, Inc., a chain of health food stores based in Boulder, CO, has paid employees for one hour of charity work for every forty hours of company work. The "benefit" is listed in the employee handbook under "Charity Work Benefit." The perk is even a valuable recruiting tool.

There are other payoffs, making volunteering good for the bottom line: There's always publicity available for community good will. Free work often brings in more paid work. New niches and new customers are discovered. Contacts are made. New product ideas have even come from charitable work.

Examples: A Bagel business provides a free breakfast at a charity fund-raiser, at the same time introducing potential customers to their product. A San Francisco tour guide volunteers time to work with foreign students at the University of California, Berkeley. As a bonus, her new contacts generate additional tour orders from foreign visitors and from the university. An employer sends employees to perform tasks for nonprofit organizations as part of a return-to-work policy, preempting them from large Workers' Compensation settlements for being unable to work.

Sample Volunteer Service Policy

The Company encourages you to volunteer your support and help to religious, education and service activities in our community.

To make it possible and easier for you to do this, the Company allows non-exempt employees, who have been employed for at least six consecutive weeks, up to ten hours with pay in a calendar year to work in voluntary service to organizations in the community that are approved by the Company. An approved activity or organization must be a federally tax-exempt charitable, education, or religious organization. Examples of such organizations that may be approved by the Company are: The local Chamber of Commerce, the local United Way, hospitals and hospices in the area, and the local Habitat for Humanity.

To apply for approval of your volunteer involvement submit your request on the volunteer Community Service Form to your Supervisor in advance of your involvement. Following your volunteer service return to your Supervisor a copy of the form, signed by an official with the approved organization.

Also, the Company will match financial contributions that exempt and non-exempt employees make to federally tax-exempt charitable, education and/or religious organizations, up to a maximum of $100 for each employee in a calendar year. To request the matching contribution, submit proof of your contribution or contributions to the Bookkeeping Department.

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