Volunteering over the years has become quite the trend for the corporate enterprise. From teams of employees working with select corporate partners, to individual contributors volunteering their time in ad hoc roles to make a difference.

In this post I will outline how the utilisation of volunteer hours can far exceed the amount of invested time. How the act of volunteering can go well beyond making a difference to the life of someone else. And how it can help your business to develop strong bonds with talent - one of the key business benefits of volunteering.

Volunteering time as an underlying principle is to help either individuals, organisations or even nations to survive or improve. The volunteer time comes in a host of forms from gardening work and building schools to pro-bono professional services or helping young people shape their careers.

Naturally, spending this time helping others is seen by many a good enough reason to volunteer. However, I do believe that not enough people or corporate enterprises take part in either individual or group volunteer efforts. A great place to start, is to pledge 1% - visit http://pledge1percent.org/ to see how you can make a difference.

The Employee Benefits of Volunteering

Volunteering goes far beyond the benefits to the recipient. The time taken benefits the individual taking the time out. It benefits the sponsoring organisation. It benefits the organisation's customers. Fundamentally, in taking the time out of the rigours of day-to-day business life, you allow your employees to:

  • Refresh & Recharge: Although they are still working, they get time away from that spreadsheet, the mammoth project, the sales pressures, the business life. Although not resting, it is a different set of challenges to overcome.
  • Think Differently: They may have become so engrained in their role that their thinking has become less challenged. A new environment can stimulate new ideas and abilities to tackle problems in new ways.
  • Learn New Skills: Will building a school ever be a project in their remit? What about organising a server room? Selling tickets to a charity event in a shopping centre? All these opportunities can enhance existing skill sets, or form entirely new ones.
  • Experiences: In the business environment, it is easy to only see what you see in-front of you. Working with charities and not-for-profit organisations can help to expose employees to new experiences. To witness experiences which they may have never thought existed.
  • Perspective: Gratitude is the key to all happiness, and so understanding and cherishing what they have can help with things like empathy - a key skill for driving successful innovation.


The Business Benefits of Volunteering

Allowing employees the opportunity to volunteer on company time offers the benefits discussed above, and more. But in addition to that, volunteering has the potential to impact directly on the bottom-line of the business. Although unlikely to be the original intention, business benefits of volunteer efforts can include:

  • Improved Loyalty: A freedom to follow passions, with causes close to an employee's heart, offers a level of profound connection and subsequently a reduced possibility of an employee choosing to leave.
  • Enhanced Skills: The volunteer projects may utilise new skills or provide an opportunity to apply existing skills to new scenarios. Opportunities for the business to see its employees develop with limited requirement for financial investment.
  • Customer Experiences: Working in new environments and with new people could help to establish new ways of working and developing relationships with customers.
  • New Opportunities: Working with charities and not-for-profits has the potential to build relationships outside of the workplace which could see new business opportunities arise.

In outlining the business benefits behind volunteer time, the hope is that more corporate enterprises become involved. The more we add value to organisations which need it the most, the better world we will live in.

So as a corporate initiative to see employees develop, why not arrange either a team volunteer event or allow employees time off to volunteer. It will be worth it!

Visit http://www.salesforce.org/ to find out about Salesforce's integrated philanthropy approach - bringing technology, people and resources to the people that need them most.