Corporate Volunteering: Get Out!

22 Nov, 2013

By Stan Craig

Volunteering can bring big benefits to your business.

Want to be visible in your community? Take your business out. It is one of the least expensive ways to tell your story. How? By encouraging your employees, your management and your leadership teams to volunteer — to get outside into the community.

Most businesses believe every dollar spent on advertising, public relations, training and development usually finds its way to the bottom line. But volunteering costs very little and creates personal development in ways that simply cannot be measured. This is one of those places where a little goes a long way. Volunteering pays big dividends for every stakeholder in building your corporate culture, community image and loyalty among your employees.

Here are six ideas that you could use to impact communities in a positive way and create word-of-mouth advertising by “getting out.”

1.     Disaster relief

Volunteers generate massive goodwill and recognition for your company by stepping in to help. You may not be able to donate cash or products that would alleviate some of the distress, but you can donate labor.

A disaster, in one way or another, touches nearly every community. Hurricanes and tornadoes as well as fires and floods not only claim lives but also devastate communities. Offer bright-colored T-shirts with your company’s name and logo to employees who would like to help in disaster situations. Your local Red Cross and other disaster relief agencies will welcome you with open arms. When you respond locally, you follow up better than out-of-state groups who may provide assistance. You can provide faster and more efficient relief than many government and NGO organizations.

2.     Schedule a bright-side cleanup day

Picking up trash along a highway makes you very visible (and can be done very safely), while allowing your employee volunteers to see the harm that littering can do to the environment. Picking up trash in your industrial park, along a local stream, in a construction or entertainment area demonstrates a positive shared value with everyone in the community.

3.     Civic involvement day

Every city has a variety of events sponsored by the local government. Your participation can help lower community costs and reduce taxpayer expense. Be sure to check with your local community and ask how you can help.

4.     Charity of the month

There are hundreds of organizations in your community in desperate need of assistance not only in cash or donations in kind but also in volunteers to assist in their efforts.

Let your employees nominate a charity and share why they believe your company should be involved in a volunteer program to assist that organization.  You will be aiding the community and helping a worthy cause while your employees see the value in both their own involvement and their employer’s.

5.     Kids are cool and so is the school

Not every school is blessed with a strong parent-teacher organization or an athletic booster club. Not every school has a tutoring program or a mentoring program.  A “kids are cool” program can provide significant help to the youth in your community. Wearing your logo shirts with “kids are cool” or another phrase of your choosing when assisting in a school says much about your concern for the community you serve.  This is another place of service your employees can help select.

6.     Community grants

Making grants to agencies making a difference in your community can build a culture of caring outside your company that demonstrates your values.  Many of your employees are already volunteering in places that need your help. Most agencies and community groups operate on a shoestring budget and often with clients or causes that have little cash resources.  It doesn’t take much money to make a major difference.

Volunteering Increases Employability

Volunteerism has important benefits and delivers value, according to the results of a survey of human resource officials released by Deloitte LLP earlier this year. A majority of those surveyed say volunteer experience makes candidates more desirable, but most applicants don’t consider this as a bridge to employment.

Volunteerism, both traditional and skilled, is encouraged by many companies through corporate citizenship programs. Sixty-five percent of HR executives surveyed say volunteering is beneficial for employees, and contributes toward a positive reputation (88 percent).

Deloitte’s Volunteer IMPACT Survey adds to other research supporting the benefits of volunteerism, notably findings by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in its Volunteering as a Pathway to Employment.

“As passionate advocates of skilled volunteerism and pro bono service in our communities, we are excited about its benefits as a bridge to employment,” says Joe Echevarri, CEO, Deloitte. “These findings align with our efforts to foster a college going culture, support returning veterans, and in the process, make our communities and America stronger.”

Says Wendy Spencer, CEO, CNCS: “Many of us in the volunteer sector have long felt volunteering gives a boost to those looking for work, but we’ve never had solid research to back it up. These reports provide strong evidence that volunteering is beneficial for jobseekers.”

Learn more at

How to Begin

Ask for a volunteer in your management team to lead a Volunteer Service Corps. If no one comes forward, you can step up to begin this new effort. Unfortunately, employees are sometimes suspicious of management. That’s why it is a good idea to ask the employees about the schools, charities, government programs and events where they would like to be involved. It won’t take long to discover the many opportunities in your community where you can make a difference.

It is especially important for senior management to be involved in every volunteer effort not as a leader but as a participant. A “come-let-us-do-this-together” attitude makes a major difference in management-employee relations, builds camaraderie and opens a way for conversation outside the office that profits everyone involved.

The Widespread Benefits

  • Generates free advertising and corporate goodwill in your neighborhood

  • Your employees know that community involvement and volunteering is one of your corporate values and is important in career development

  • Provides ongoing assistance in your community where it is needed most. Too often holidays are the only time that individuals and corporations even consider volunteering. However, that is a time when there are usually an abundance of volunteers. There may be other times of the year when they are more needed.

  •  Builds employee satisfaction when they feel your firm values more than what is brought to the bottom line. Employee surveys continue to show that employees want to work for a company that emphasizes community values.

  • Creates a distinctive awareness in clients and customers that sets you and your company apart as a place where values matter

It is especially important for senior management to be involved in every volunteer effort not as a leader but as a participant. A “come-let-us-do-this-together” attitude makes a major difference in management-employee relations, builds camaraderie and opens a way for conversation outside the office that profits everyone involved.

Can it help your career? The Wall Street Journal reported that the probable heir apparent for the top job at Ford was identified because he was named chair of the Detroit United Way Campaign.

Get out!

Volunteers are visible in a world where many find it difficult to stand out.  Employment candidates with a history of volunteering have demonstrated a strong work ethic, a history of teamwork, following rules and caring about ideas and people.

If you want support working together for a common goal, encourage personal development and leadership skills — make volunteering a part of your company’s culture.  

Because volunteering has all the benefits listed here and much more, some firms have created a volunteer resource manager position or other full time positions to enlist and equip volunteers.  They also tell the story to employees and the community that serving in your community, your state and even around the world is good business.

Getting out and being visible as a servant, in whatever way possible, is really more than good business — it is an act of kindness, charity and compassion.  These are not words often used when describing business in America today.

United Airlines is an example of what a global company can do to get out:

  • Pledged community grants to organizations and service projects

  • Offered $156,000 awards to 150 nonprofits where co-workers volunteer their time

  • Partnered with Feeding America by giving a portion of food sales to provide food for families as well encouraging co-workers to host food bank events

  •  Provided transportation for volunteers and supplies to disaster areas such as those affected by Superstorm Sandy and the Asian tsunami

 United’s chairman and CEO Jeff Smisek writes, “ … we go beyond getting you to your destination, and we are committed to making a positive difference in the communities where we live and work … to recognize the value our co-workers bring to their communities through volunteerism. It is an important part of who we are at United.”

Getting out and being visible as a servant, in whatever way possible, is really more than good business — it is an act of kindness, charity and compassion.  These are not words often used when describing business in America today.

 “The road to success is not crowded because, while most are looking for ways to take, the truly successful people are finding ways to give. With a giving attitude, every situation is an opportunity for success.”

 Here are just a few of the free resources available to help you make your volunteering more successful.

  • offers a wide variety of help for leaders to successfully develop volunteers in any program. Events, courses and awards are listed on the site as well as a wide variety of resources for those who lead volunteers.  This is an international website.

  • is a site especially for corporate volunteers.  It has a 15-year history beginning as a “Point of Light” effort under President George H. W. Bush. There is a HandsOn Network of corporations with more than 70 cities and 12 international locations.  Volunteer disaster centers are one of their key initiatives.

  • lists organizations in your community for local service. According to this website, there are more than 90,000 places in the United States and around the world that are looking for volunteers. This is an excellent site to begin your research on ways that your company, business or corporation can volunteer near you.

Stan Craig, author of ForeTalk: The 7 Critical Conversations, is a speaker, coach and engaged volunteer. He can be reached at

Illustration by Stuart Miles at Free Digital