The Biggest Corporate Gift of All: Our Staff

If you love your employees let them go.

At least for a week.

And make sure that week is fully paid time off to volunteer with the organization of their choice.

What I’m talking about is corporate volunteer policies. Never heard of it? Think of it as a modern form of corporate giving, but with more individuality. You give your staff a full week (or 40 hours) to dedicate to a cause or organization of their choice (this part’s important, more on why later). In return you get more engaged, inspired and fulfilled employees. Sounds pretty wonderful, right?

I could bore you with the lists of studies that have found overwhelmingly positive results on the mental (and oftentimes physical) health benefits of volunteering, but instead I’m going to give you a run down of all the corporate-specific benefits you might not already be aware of:

1. Gives staff opportunities to develop their skills outside of their regular, routine work.
Oftentimes our staff will use their existing area of specialty to help an organization that otherwise wouldn’t have the budget to hire them (think social media engagement, or design work.) Not only does this help the organization itself, but it challenges employees to find new ways of working, with clients with whom they might not normally cross paths.

2. Allows staff experience new people, cultures, and exciting situations.
Many of our staff take their volunteer time abroad to spend a week fully immersed in creating impact in parts of the world or country that they would otherwise be too pressed on time to experience.

3. Deepens our connection to community.
For staff that stay local with their volunteering, it allows them to deepen their connection with their own communities, which creates a support network outside of the office (and if it benefits staff outside of the office, it’s going to benefit staff inside of the office too!)

So why not go the more traditional, easier logistically route of having on full day or week dedicated to a specific office wide project that the entire team can work on together?

While this is great in theory, and probably great in practice if you have a very small team with identical values and interests, the problem with this model is that it doesn’t allow for staff to make a decision on what they’d like to dedicate their time and skills to, which oftentimes results in volunteers who are less engaged in the tasks (potentially even causing more harm than good), a sense of obligation (“mandatory” isn’t a word that sits well in most situations), and no opportunity for skill specific development.

This year alone our staff have used their volunteer week for:

-Leading youth sessions in Kenya
-Assisting at an animal spay/neuter clinic in the Philippines
-Leading tax return sessions for single mothers in at risk communities
-Local beach clean up

With many (many) more exciting placements in the works.

So next time you’re reexamining your “corporate giving” strategy, consider a volunteer week instead. Your staff (and community) will thank you.

Amanda Javier is PUBLIC’s Culture and Operations Specialist

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