Volunteering Is Good For Business & Society
| By 3P INSIGHTS |
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”Muhammad Ali
Every year on December 5, the United Nations celebrates International Volunteer Day – a day to recognize the tireless efforts of volunteers across the globe. Every day, volunteers work to drive climate action, foster inclusion, and help advance the Sustainable Development Goals. Volunteers engage communities and build grassroots movements to help build a better and more prosperous future for all of us. Indeed, encouraging and supporting volunteerism is an impactful part of creating a more inclusive, just, and peaceful world.
The Value of Volunteering
As a business, volunteering is a great way to make an impact in your local community and beyond. Volunteers help build and sustain strong civil society and a strong civil society is good for business. For example, research from the UN Global Compact suggests that social risk can increase business operating costs by an average of 10%. According to the World Economic Forum, there is a clear price that businesses pay for failing to support the societies in which they operate. Why build a business in a community that isn’t prosperous? Volunteering is a way to directly invest in the development of your own community while at the same time, helping to create a more lucrative operating environment for your business. Employer-sponsored volunteer programs help build social capital, something I discuss extensively in another Impact Article.
Volunteering can also help strengthen your brand reputation. Roughly 85% of consumers report having a more positive image of a company when it supports a cause they care about. Building a sustainable business means demonstrating your passion for the causes that align with your brand values. There is no better way to do this than to volunteer your time. Of course donating to those causes can also be impactful, but volunteering offers a higher level of visibility for the good work your business is doing. People see you doing good and it helps create a sense of trust in you and your company. Volunteering also helps you build connections and share ideas with people you may not have had access to otherwise. Networking is an important part of business growth and volunteering is a powerful way to build networks with people who share the same passion for the common good.
Volunteering has a great deal of intrinsic value as well. For starters, volunteering can help you develop skills. Volunteering has been shown to be particularly powerful in the development of communication, teamwork, and leadership skills. According to surveys reviewed by the nonprofit organization New York Cares, more than 80% of professionals said they developed leadership skills through their volunteer experience and three in four believe companies should use volunteering for professional development. Roughly 78% of volunteers report that engaging in volunteer service improved their communication skills. Among corporate volunteer managers, 97% think that volunteer service strengthens internal teamwork.
Mental Health and Well-Being
Volunteering has also been shown to improve mental health and well-being. According to recent research reported in Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, people who volunteer are more satisfied with their lives and rate their overall health as better. Volunteering at least once per month was associated with the greatest mental health improvements. Other research suggests that people who start out with lower levels of well-being may get an even larger boost from volunteering. Indeed, when we help others, we can achieve what researchers call “warm glow” – a sustained sense of happiness that can last well beyond the time spent volunteering.
Ways to Volunteer
“Volunteering is rich and diverse.” As explained by Jean Ann Kochevar in The Business Times, volunteering isn’t just about organizing hundreds of volunteers for large events. Volunteering can take many shapes and forms. Here are a few ideas to get you started, keeping in mind that the most impactful volunteer work for business owners is that which aligns with your company’s purpose, mission and brand values.
Organize a Community Cleanup
Litter often lines the streets within our communities. Organizing a community cleanup is a great way to make your community look better while improving the environment and supporting ecosystems. Consider organizing your own cleanup or participating in one organized by another group. In exchange for regular cleanup efforts or in some cases, financial support, you may even be allowed to post a sponsorship sign for a particular area that you volunteer in. An example of this is the Adopt a Highway® program in the U.S.
Perform Pro-Bono Work
Another great way to help your community thrive is to offer pro-bono work. Pro-bono work is great for service organizations because it is a way to showcase your skills while providing free support for those in need. Pro-bono work is most commonly associated with the legal profession, but any professional service provider can create a pro-bono program. Some organizations set up a scholarship program while others may simply allot a certain number of hours per month to those who apply on a first-come, first-served basis. Having a plan in place for how much time you will offer and how you’ll determine who is most in need of the services will help you make the biggest impact through pro-bono work.
Offer Free Education
Use your unique skills to give your community free educational opportunities. The type of “freebies” you offer depend on your industry. For example, attorneys could provide a free legal clinic, accountants could provide a free tax webinar, or restaurants could provide free cooking classes. As long as your free learning opportunity ties back to your business purpose and mission, you’ll find this to be an impactful way to build your brand image and your network. Make an even bigger impact by including a small cover charge that will be donated to a cause aligned with your brand values.
Mentor Kids and Teens
A great way to pave the way for future professionals in your industry is to establish a mentorship program for kids or teens. Consider partnering with your local school district to establish a “school to work” program or job shadowing day. Or, consider establishing an after-school program that creates a recreational opportunity to participate in your industry. Mentorship programs are a powerful way to help spread the word about the work you do while also helping to create more inclusive communities.
Help out at Community Events
Participating in community events is another great way to capitalize on the benefits of volunteering. Community races, tournaments, or other athletic events take place frequently, which can help you plan for a time that works with your business schedule. These events require a lot of support, from setup to cleanup and everything in between. Accordingly, they provide ample opportunities to get involved. These types of events usually offer opportunities to donate prizes as well, which is one more way to demonstrate your commitment to the community.
As business owners, we’re busy. Indeed, Gallup found that on average, business owners work about 52 hours per week. Nearly 40% report working over 60 hours per week! This doesn’t leave a lot of time for getting out in our communities. For the busiest business owners, volunteering online may be a more time-effective option. This has been a popular option during the pandemic when it was difficult for people to physically go somewhere to volunteer. Volunteering online is also great for business owners with a global presence because it allows you to donate your time to an international cause that matters to you and your business. DoSomething.org offers a list of virtual volunteer opportunities, including those available with the United Nations, The Smithsonian Institution, Amnesty International, and Project Gutenberg. If you’ve been in business for a while and believe you have valuable knowledge to offer other small business owners, volunteering with SCORE is another impactful option. They offer several volunteer programs, including business mentoring, workshop presentations, and marketing support.
Service speaks louder than money or marketing. Show your clients, customers, and community stakeholders that you are passionate about making positive social and environmental impacts through volunteer service and watch your business grow with impact.
3P INSIGHTS is a consulting firm that offers training, speaking and support services to help organizations attract and retain diverse talent, create inclusive workplaces, become better environmental stewards, and improve their overall social, environmental, and economic impact.
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