Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Passion Into Action: Employee Volunteer Programs

by Laprisha Berry Vaughn
Contributor, Gulf Coast Philanthropy

In honor of National Volunteer Week (April 10-16, 2011) it seems apropos to highlight the importance and potential of employee volunteer programs (EVP).

In the 1970s, under the Nixon Administration, businesses were called to assume broader responsibility for the quality of American life and to expand their somewhat myopic focus from profit and corporate business alone to people and community business as well.  This charge resulted in the birth of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and EVPs were established as a pillar of CSR. 

Through EVPs, employees were increasingly encouraged to volunteer with local organizations and to participate in company-sponsored community projects.  Since the first documented case of employee volunteerism, the number of companies who support EVPs has continued to grow as well as the number of employees actively participating in these programs.

Employee volunteerism continues to rise and there is no wonder with so many benefits for the company and the community. EVPs benefit companies by:

  • Complimenting business goals - Community investment helps build community capacity, creating a stable, sustainable and healthy local community that will often supply the company’s employees and customers.
  • Building employee morale – EVPs allow employees to find an enjoyable way to interact with colleagues and the community.
  • Providing teamwork/teambuilding activities – Volunteering can foster inter-departmental cohesion by enabling new teams to work together and create a sense of common purpose.
  • Creating leadership opportunities - Working outside the constraints of the company may allow unlikely leaders to emerge and use skills that are otherwise untapped.
Addressing and helping to alleviate community issues - EVPs seek out causes that matter to the company and the community. Nonprofit organizations can benefit from EVPs in the following ways:
  • Increasing visibility - Partnerships offer an expanded audience to which nonprofit organizations can communicate community needs and organizations that are working to address them.
  • Increasing credibility – A partnership between a well-known business entity and a lesser known non profit organization can raise the credibility of the latter within the community served and the business community.
  • Providing networking opportunities – Partnerships between the nonprofit and for profit sectors open lines of communication between diverse sections of the community.   
  • Employing new talents/ideas to meet community needs – EVPs provide new talent and energy by increasing the number of volunteers and pool of available skills and increases capacity to provide community service.
  • Leveraging business savvy – There is a trend among EVPs to provide expertise to the nonprofit sector and to enlist the help of the nonprofit for its expertise rather than going to an outside consultant.
Neither of the lists of benefits are exhaustive.  And the bottomline is that successful EVPs that are meaningful and sustainable result in meaningful impacts for companies, their employees and the community. Employee volunteer programs allow a company to invest in a community and allow nonprofit organizations to increase their impact by enlisting the help of others.

If you participate in an EVP let us know about it and you/your company could be featured on GCPs website.  If you’re not currently volunteering or have not established an EVP, National Volunteer Week is an ideal time to reflect on the past and plan for the future.  Use this week to make new commitments to volunteering for this year and beyond.

In an effort to encourage volunteerism and giving in the community, GCP Contributors invites readers to share the volunteerism efforts of their companies. How has volunteerism impacted your colleagues and/or family?

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