Large, publicly traded companies receive a lot of attention, well deserved, for their employee volunteer projects. Some companies allow employees to volunteer during work hours, and have the resources, including brand equity, to generate publicity about employee volunteerism. However, small businesses oftentimes lack the resources to follow suit and fail to receive the benefits from engaging employees in a company volunteer program. So, where does the little guy fit in?
Companies do not have to pay employees to volunteer. Neither do they have to allow volunteer activities during work hours. In reality, while this practice is really beneficial to recipient organizations, it is an in-kind donation of labor. While I do not discourage companies from engaging in practices that work best for them, it is not necessary for small businesses to “Keep up with the Joneses,” so to speak.
When I was in high school, I worked for a dental corporation with nearly 200 employees founded on the principles of serving the underserved population with care. Our CEO, a retired dentist, was a generous donor to a variety of national non-profit organizations and community volunteer. When one of his organizations held a fundraiser in town, he sponsored an employee team to participate which included his donation of several thousand dollars.
On an early Saturday morning, employees, their friends, and families met up in company team t-shirts, on our own time, to kick off the event. I brought my best friend, Jennifer, the Controller and her husband brought their dog, one of our billers brought her three kids and a friend, and many other of our coworkers came along. And the event was a lot of fun. It generated camaraderie, team spirit, and a rewarding sentiment that we were all doing something worthwhile. In fact, employees gave a hard time to the manager who did not show to the event, and he really missed out. I have many similar successes with employee volunteers.
Small businesses, non-profits, and public agencies can engage in volunteerism that maximizes their benefit to the employee, the company, and the community. Successful projects fulfill the interests and needs of employees as well as the organization. Inviting employee families and friends to participate provides an opportunity to volunteer that may otherwise be unrealistic. A large, local community or industry sponsored event is a great place to start. Oftentimes, you can generate a lot of buzz around your efforts and results.
In my community, a large association of hospitality companies sponsors an annual volunteer day where employees of member businesses provide incredible service through a variety of projects. This family friendly event meets the interest of all ages of volunteers, many of limited means, who participate on their own time. Not only do they establish camaraderie with their coworkers and colleagues in the industry, but they make a world of difference in our community.
How is your small business or organization making a difference? Leave a comment. Make YOUR difference in the world…Volunteer!