What does building a volunteer group to help families have to do with building a corporate team to succeed in the marketplace?
Just ask Tom Ruff, president of recruiter Tom Ruff Co. “One year we took our volunteering cue from our operations manager, who has a niece with a skin disease that prevents her from going outside in daylight,” he says. Ruff’s staff agreed to volunteer to entertain a group of kids with the disease for the day while their parents held a board meeting of their support organization. “We got so much out of it as a team, just being able to give back,” Ruff says.
What does Ruff’s company get from giving back to the community? The chance to get to know and appreciate each other on another level, which, in turn, facilitates collaboration in the workplace.
Can you interest your employer in putting together teams to volunteer in the community? If you want to give it a try, here are key points to include in your pitch.
Corporate Volunteerism Is Good PR
Whether your company needs to dig itself out from some bad publicity or simply wants to burnish its image, a high-visibility, team-based volunteer project can help. Seventy-five percent of Americans believe employee volunteerism should support nonprofits, according to one study by Cone. Involvement with a high-visibility nonprofit is good publicity for any firm. “A group of our employees will get together with young people in ReadBoston,” a community literacy project, says Kevin Steel, president of staffing firm The Winter, Wyman Companies. Some of the company’s volunteers also go out into the community with ReadBoston’s Storymobiles, an activity that occasionally gets covered in community papers.
Volunteer Projects Increase Team Productivity
Working together in the community gives employees a fresh perspective on productive interaction; this renewal often carries over to the workplace, to the company's benefit. “We get so much out of it as a team,” Ruff says. “For days and weeks after a project, we talk about how it brought us together on an emotional and personal level.”
Team Volunteering Boosts Interdepartmental Cooperation
Does your boss frequently say she wished your group had better working relationships with other departments? An interdepartmental team effort in the community can do wonders to break down social barriers and bridge divisions created by office politics.
Volunteering Builds and Reveals Skills
“Group volunteering helps companies satisfy their employees’ desire for leadership opportunities,” says Mark Hiemenz, executive director of Hands On Twin Cities.
Amy Smith, a vice president at Hands On Twin Cities, concurs. “Some volunteers really shine in a leadership role, an opportunity they may not have had at work,” she says. And in a team environment, managers are present to witness those skills and envision importing them to the workplace.
Volunteering Helps Attract and Retain Workers
Your executives may give team volunteering the thumbs-up when they recognize how attractive it is to valued employees, especially Gen Yers and Millennials. “Our team volunteering efforts come up during interviewing, and people react very positively to it,” Steele says. Ginger Cole, a capital analyst with Panhandle Eastern Pipe Line, recently participated in a team project to refurbish landscaping at ReDiscover, a mental health agency in the Kansas City, Missouri, area. “Company-sponsored volunteer projects show us that our employer is supporting us and encouraging us in these activities,” she says.
Employers Can Outsource the Management of a Team Volunteering Project
Firms such as Volunteer San Diego work with human resources and community relations departments to plan volunteering efforts, coordinate logistics, provide supplies and more. If your company has the bucks, purchasing these services can make a community volunteer project much simpler to carry off.
Scheduling a Volunteer Activity Can Be Flexible
Some companies schedule team-based volunteer projects during work hours. Others confine these activities to weekends and after-work hours. Still others strike a balance by scheduling volunteer activities to begin before the workday (for example, serving breakfast at a soup kitchen), bridge the lunch hour, or start in the middle of a weekday afternoon and perhaps continue into the evening. It’s important for the company to pick a project that can meet its own scheduling needs, as well as those of the target nonprofit and employee volunteers.
Organizations offering corporate volunteering opportunities include Taproot Foundation and America’s Promise Alliance.