By Gary Bagley
Volunteer service programs are on the rise at corporations across the United States. While growth in donating cash directly to charitable organizations has slowed in recent years, companies are increasingly treating volunteer service as a central approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR) according to the 2014 edition of Giving in Numbers from CECP, in association with The Conference Board.
A survey of 145 multi-billion dollar companies from CECP (Making the Business Case: Trends in Corporate Societal Investment) found that from 2012 to 2014, the percentage of companies offering volunteer programs increased from 40% to 51%. Giving in Numbers (2014) also reported that the median number of hours volunteered by employees, on company time, has also increased by 37% from 2010 to 2013.
The focus on volunteerism and hands-on service among our corporate partners helps us to better meet our mission. New York Cares recently finished our most active month of corporate volunteer service ever, running nearly 160 projects with 33 companies this June (over five projects a day), compared to 115 projects in June 2014 and 110 the year before.
As companies seek to leverage the benefits of employee volunteer programs, from improved morale to being more attractive to the Millennial workforce, New York Cares prioritizes developing well-executed volunteer programs that meet pressing community needs.
There are as many strategies as there are companies, but at New York Cares we have seen some solid approaches that typify great companies with great employee volunteer programs:
- Flexibility. As part of their annual “Discover Your Impact Day,” Discovery Communications took children to the zoo, cleaned up parks, and delivered meals, among many other projects, through New York Cares. Participating in a diverse array of projects allows companies to be responsive to a range of community needs, also providing employees with options that satisfy a range of interests.
- Using knowledge and skills. Some companies, like Citigroup, enable employees to share what they do best. For them that means knowledge of banking and teaching children about saving money through their “Teach Children to Save” initiative. These types of projects can be particularly rewarding to staff, while also providing expertise that may not otherwise be easily accessible for schools and nonprofits.
- Long-term View. Morgan Stanley is increasing its long-term impact by having divisions within the firm adopt a nonprofit. This approach allows employees to build relationships with staff, students, and other clients at a nonprofit or school, and become committed to its success. This approach also connects volunteerism to more traditional philanthropy as each division commits its volunteer time and fundraising efforts to help support its nonprofit partner.
Like any great program, holding high standards for all the stakeholders – nonprofits and corporations alike – opens the door to the possibility of deep impact. Do you have examples of high-impact CSR programming to share? Post examples here or tweet them to me at @gbagley_nycares.
-Gary Bagley is the Executive Director of New York Cares.