Volunteerism an excellent way to enhance company image

Mary Jo Finchum/Tree Full of Owls

“A good company delivers excellent products and services, and a great company does all that and strives to make the world a better place.” 

–William Ford Jr., Ford Motor Co. chairman

 A growing number of companies throughout the world have concluded that by adopting more socially responsive approaches, gains can be made for them and for society.

According to the research paper “An Introduction to Employee Volunteering: A Profitable Venture for Business and Communities” by John Murphy and Barrie Thomas, there is much less tolerance for corporate decision making based only on profit making. This strategy is viewed by the public as insensitive to the needs of consumers, employees and communities. The public wants companies to conduct themselves in ways that enhance rather than jeopardize community well being.

Volunteerism is an excellent way for businesses to simultaneously enhance community well being and company image. With public cynicism about business sky high, it is important that an organization behave and interact in its community in a way that contributes to its public image and reputation. Volunteerism is one of the most effective ways for a company to make a positive contribution, establish identity and solidify reputation. Whether it is called employee volunteering, corporate volunteering or workplace volunteering, the basic idea is that employees perform work in the community with some form of support and/or encouragement from their employer.

All companies and employee volunteer programs are different. Successful programs are tailored to suit the company’s culture and mission. Outstanding programs are formed with the understanding that the company’s community service involvement contributes to the achievement of its business goals. The following steps, defined by the Points of Light Foundation, can help develop a successful employee volunteer program.

  1. Identify corporate values, goals and priorities that might be met by a volunteer program. Company administrators need to see how its employees can perpetuate the corporation’s mission and goals in the community.
  2. Determine employee interests through surveys to determine volunteer experience and specific employee interest.
  3. Determine community needs and consider how an employee volunteer program can address one of those needs. Business leaders want others to know that their corporation is helping to address real issues. An employee volunteer program is an opportunity to communicate that message to all employees and to the community.
  4. Develop a program structure that encourages and facilitates employee participation at all levels.
  5. Develop written corporate policies to support an employee volunteer program.  Will the opportunity to do volunteer work exist during “company time?”  (“Released time” for volunteering is a powerful incentive for employee participation in volunteer projects.)
  6. Select volunteer projects that relate to the corporation’s interests and the needs of the community.
  7. Evaluate the employee volunteer program to measure its impact on the employees, the corporation and the community.
  8. Publicize the employee volunteer efforts and accomplishments both internally to senior management and internal newsletters, and externally to community media, the chamber of commerce and partnering nonprofit organizations. Provide a link on the company’s web site where employees can learn about current volunteer opportunities.
  9. Reward and recognize volunteers through awards, visibility and appropriate benefits. For example, take pictures of the volunteers in action and place them in the company newsletter or on the company’s web site.

It is important that volunteers, the company and the community benefit equally from the arrangement. Corporate benefits include improved corporate public image, enhanced impact of monetary contributions, improved community relations, opportunities to interact in new ways with customers and potential customers, improved employee recruitment and retention, improved employee loyalty and increased employee performance.

Employee benefits include improved employee leadership, communications and interpersonal skills, increased opportunity for employees to explore and develop new areas of expertise, increased employee morale, improved community services used by employees and their families and an enlarged sense of community and social obligation.

Community benefits include the extension of limited resource, an additional source of volunteers, the addition of new skills and energy to problem solving, the creation of productive links with companies, an increase in the community’s management skills and an improvement of the quality of community services.

When successfully planned and operated, everyone can benefit from an employee volunteer program. A successful program establishes mutual goals and accomplishes valued work with benefits and recognition for all partners.

Mary Jo Finchum is the public relations administrator for Stanley Consultants.