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4 ways volunteerism can strengthen your business

Why "employer supported volunteering" is good for your company, your employees, your community and your brand.

Five million Canadian employees volunteer with their employer’s support.

Volunteerism is an essential part of creating strong and vibrant communities, and it also plays an important role in the community engagement efforts of Canadian employers. In the last decade, employer supported volunteering (ESV) has gone from being a unique initiative carried out by a handful of companies to a mainstream practice amongst Canada’s top employers.

In the latest survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating from Volunteer Canada, it was reported that almost two-thirds of volunteers were part of the workforce – a total of 8.2 million people.

Five million of these volunteers noted that they received some form of support or recognition from their employer for their volunteer efforts. This included changing hours or reducing workloads, allowing the use of facilities or equipment to carry out volunteer tasks, providing recognition or a letter of thanks, or offering paid time off.

With this in mind, here are the top four reasons supporting volunteerism within your business is a great idea.

1. Good for your company

Many Canadian employers are directing attention, resources and infrastructure towards employer supported volunteer (ESV) programs within their workplaces, which can include a wide range of activities:

  • Skills-based volunteering (or pro bono work), like offering HR services to a local non-profit, or assisting seniors with tax returns.  
  • Organizing the workforce to plan a fundraising BBQ in the parking lot or collecting items to be donated to a local shelter.
  • A team of employees spending the day helping a non-profit or charity with a specific project, like painting and redecorating the bedrooms in a women’s shelter or creating a community garden.
  • Supporting employees in their own personal volunteer efforts, like offering them flex time to accommodate their volunteer shift or providing paid incentives for volunteer hours.

We tend to look at volunteer programs as the nice thing to do – more of an employee perk than a strategic business initiative. However, when we look at the growth of ESV programs across Canada we know that companies who view their volunteer programs as intrinsic pieces of the business have a distinct advantage over the competition.

2. Good for your employees

According to a study by Deloitte, employees are twice as likely to say their workplace is a positive environment if they participate in their company’s ESV program.

Employees who are supported in their volunteer efforts are more engaged, have better communication skills, increased productivity and decreased absenteeism. Supported volunteer efforts also provide valuable learning opportunities for employees, which satisfy their need for professional development, leadership roles and stimulating work that is also rewarding.

Companies who support their employee’s engagement efforts see more loyalty, pride and satisfaction from their employees, resulting in less staff turnover.

     Related: 4 volunteer ideas to beef up your resume               

3. Good for your community

ESV programs also create an engaging workplace culture and can have a very beneficial impact on society.

As employers move towards greater social responsibility and community investment, Canadian companies are connecting with non-profit organizations to collaborate on ways to tackle important social, economic and environmental issues. ESV programs are an essential component of these efforts and the non-profit sector benefits by gaining access to resources and highly skilled individuals interested in volunteering for their cause.

These types of partnerships directly affect a company’s bottom line as they have the potential to translate into greater impact and better service for clients and customers. For many consumers, social purpose can be a deciding factor and it is often valued more than design, innovation and brand loyalty.

4. Good for your brand

Edelman reports that 86% of global consumers believe that companies need to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as they do on business interests.

Employee volunteering has become a way for companies to highlight their social responsibility and engagement efforts. That helps build brand value in their communities, which has an incremental value that will last far beyond the fiscal year. Companies that understand that their employees don’t just want to work and pay their bills, but also want to make a difference in their communities, will experience motivated and productive workplaces along with a more loyal customer base.

Today's workforce wants to find a sense of purpose at work, and employers can facilitate this by creating an ESV program and increasing the options for giving back to the local community.

Up next: Consider more ways to strengthen your business in Why Millennials are your company's saviour

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Dawn Bourbonnais

Having spent the past 15 years working in the non-profit sector as a communications specialist, Dawn has developed a talent for interpreting what others mean to say and what some want to hear. In her current role at Volunteer Manitoba, she is responsible for increasing awareness of VM’s mission – to encourage and promote volunteerism across the province. Passionate about volunteers and community engagement, she has also managed volunteers for many festival and community events held in Winnipeg, and is especially fond of the volunteers at Jazz Winnipeg Inc. (whom she has been working with since 2004).

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