This is the general response I get from friends, fellow volunteers and film festival attendees after I share my elevator speech about how I am able to make an annual week-long commitment to volunteer at the Toronto International Film Festival in the middle of September.
Dressed in hunter orange (to ensure we can be seen from miles away), each year my new TIFF peers and I exchange stories about what we do the other 51 weeks of the year. Most volunteers are students, retirees, or individuals looking for work and wanting to break into the film industry; hence the surprised expressions when I tell them that I have a full-time job at an advertising agency but am fortunate to get a paid week off to volunteer at a non-profit organization of my choice every year. It makes sense after all. Since many of our clients rely on volunteers to fulfill their mission, Manifest supports the act of volunteering. Other common responses to my story include:
“No way – that’s amazing!”
“Are they hiring?”
“That makes so much sense…more companies should do something like that.”
Whether you’re a small organization looking to offer unique, non-financial perks to employees or a larger organization looking to gain a competitive advantage through a comprehensive corporate citizenship program; it’s no secret that supporting employee volunteering has numerous benefits for businesses, employees and non-profits alike.
In addition to offering paid time off to employees, here are three different examples of how organizations have successfully integrated volunteering into their workplace and their community involvement programs:
1. Team Volunteering – Manulife: More and more traditional corporate retreats are giving way to meaningful team-building exercises focused around volunteering. Manulife has made a major commitment to supporting volunteerism and one of the ways in which they do this is by regularly signing up groups of employees to put on hard hats and pick up hammers for the day to support Habitat for Humanity. Not only is it a great way to give back to the community, but employees enjoy a day together out of the office learning new skills.
2. Pro Bono Work – Edelman’s The Little Give: While still a team-based event, Edelman’s employee volunteering program focuses more on skills-based volunteering. With employees specializing in areas from graphic and web design to marketing and advertising, the Little Give is all about engaging in projects that utilize these skills. Cross functional teams work the weekend to help 10 local charities and non-profit organizations overcome their PR challenges.
3. Microvolunteering – Kraft Foods Foundation: A new way of giving back while working is microvolunteering. While many people find it hard to fit volunteering into their busy lives, microvolunteering connects people with manageable (usually) online tasks that can be done anytime anywhere, and don’t require a major commitment. Kraft uses a network called Sparked, which enables employees to complete brief volunteer projects for non-profits online whenever they have some free time while at work.
Not all employee volunteering programs are the same, but they all hold value. Benefits include improved employee performance, engagement, retention and loyalty, as well as the ability to attract better talent – all while enhancing corporate image.
Does your organization support employee volunteering? And if so, are you making the most of it?
Heather and Andrea K.