I recently had the opportunity to speak with Helen Davis, Statewide Volunteer Sourcing Coordinator at the non-profit organization CASA of NJ (Court Appointed Special Advocates). CASA volunteers are everyday citizens like you, appointed by the courts, and trained to advocate for neglected, abused, and abandoned children placed in foster care.
Here’s a recap of our conversation.
It’s packed with insights to help you think about volunteering as a strategic initiative your company can initiate to become more socially-conscious that impacts different stakeholders within your organization (not just the volunteers) and how volunteering makes financial sense.
Why would a company encourage volunteerism?
Volunteering is much more than a “feel good” experience for a company and its employees. The collective effort of contribution can and should be a key part of any socially-conscious corporate program and can catapult organizations to the “next level” by making a broader and deeper impact on society.
Volunteering demonstrates positive core values. It can improve corporate culture, demonstrate what a company stands for, improve employee attraction and retention, benefit stakeholders and positively promote brand image – all of which are factors that help a company’s bottom line. It speaks to a leading-edge strategic focus.
First, it’s important to understand that there are different ways people can volunteer. Most non-profit organizations try to provide opportunities for people with different talents and time constraints to still make a contribution. For example, CASA of NJ has identified five ways that a company or its employees can contribute to the life of a child in foster care:
Become an Advocate
Talk to your local organizations and friends
Volunteer your time
Volunteer on our fundraising committee or volunteer to run a fundraiser
Become a Board Member
Addressing needs and improving the communities in which a company does business and where their employees and customers reside has impact.
Why would a company want to make social impact?
Being socially responsible is strategic in a myriad of ways.
A socially-responsible company improves relationships with clients/customers; a company that demonstrates a commitment to community causes is perceived as more philanthropic than companies that don’t.
Being a socially-responsible company can result in increased positive media coverage – the world will know when you’re doing good! Media visibility can shed a positive light on an organization.
Social responsibility boosts employee engagement – employees like working for a company that has a good public image and is constantly in the media for positive reasons.
A socially-responsible company also attracts investors. When companies donate money to non-profit organizations like CASA of NJ and encourage their employees to volunteer their time, they demonstrate to investors that they don’t just care about profits – they have an interest in the local and global community.
Finally, a socially-responsible company is better able to attract and retain top talent and volunteering generates team building.
Let’s talk about that, Helen. What are employees looking for today?
Employees want to feel like they’re part of something bigger.
Increasingly, today’s employees are entering the workforce with an expectation that volunteering will be a part of their professional careers. PwC discovered that 88% of millennials gravitated toward companies with pronounced Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs, and 86% would consider leaving if their employer’s CSR no longer met their expectations.
And according to the 2011 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey, 61% of millennials said a volunteer program would be a factor “when choosing between two potential jobs with the same location, responsibilities, pay and benefits.”
How does volunteering to make a social impact boost employee performance?
Once on the job, employees also feel better about their corporations — and themselves — when they’re presented with the opportunity to volunteer.
Deloitte found that the majority of millennial employees that volunteer are very loyal toward their company, proud to work there, satisfied with their employer, and likely to recommend their company to a friend. Millennial employees who participate in a company’s volunteer program are more than twice as likely to rate their work culture as “very positive,” as compared to those who don’t volunteer.
According to the same Deloitte survey, 91% of Fortune 500 HR managers said that “volunteering knowledge and expertise to a nonprofit can be an effective way to cultivate critical business and leadership skills,” such as project management, communication, goal-setting and evaluation. These ‘soft’ skills might not be as easy to quantify, and they might not even be a part of an employee’s daily work, but they can make all the difference in cultivating leadership and planning for future success.
How does all of this impact client relationships?
Volunteer programs also help companies ingratiate themselves to their customers, who will see — and respect — a business’ efforts to improve the community.
It’s something that consumers expect: according to a 2011 “Pulse Survey,” 40% of a company’s reputation is determined by volunteering and corporate social responsibility. And according to a McKinsey study of CSR, “CFOs, investment professionals, and corporate social responsibility professionals agree that maintaining a good corporate reputation or brand equity is the most important way [volunteering programs] create value.”
When companies are involved in their communities, both locally and globally they also stand out from the competition, helping to improve brand image.
Why does volunteering – especially when it’s done strategically – make sense financially?
Recruiting top talent, keeping them engaged and burnishing a business’ reputation — it all adds up to a bigger bottom line. A recent Forbes article reported, “More engaged employees make for more profits...companies with highly engaged employees have three times the operating margin...and four times the earnings per share... of companies with low engagement.”
What’s the big picture on volunteerism?
Employees are looking today for meaning in what they do. Customers are looking for companies that have an ethical foundation as well as a commitment to profitability. By incorporating volunteerism into a company’s culture, it will grow stronger and more resilient.
Doing good becomes not only the right thing to do - it’s the only strategic path to take.
About Helen Davis
Helen has been the Statewide Volunteer Sourcing Coordinator for CASA of New Jersey since November 2018. Her responsibilities include identification of opportunities for partnership with companies and organizations to source individuals that could be advocates for children currently in foster care across the state. She was formerly a CASA Volunteer advocate for Morris and Sussex County for three years.
Helen has an eclectic and extensive background for over 15 years in the telecommunications industry and the non-profit arena as a Manager for AT&T, Lucent Technologies, the YMCA and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
A graduate of Mount Holyoke College with a BA in Sociology and a MBA in Business Administration from Columbia University, Helen has a passion for Marketing, the Arts and Social issues and serves on the Board of Soroptimist International of Essex County a global organization dedicating to improving the lives of women and girls through financial independence.
She resides in Basking Ridge, New Jersey.
Helen may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (973) 975-8050