corporate citizenship4 Reasons You Need to Care About Corporate Volunteer Programs

Nonprofits have commonly collaborated with businesses around fundraising, event sponsorships, and days of service.  What’s not so common is corporate volunteer programs that are developed for deeper levels of volunteer service in mind.

A few years ago, I wrote about what businesses need from nonprofits. The focus on managing brand reputation was relatively new at the time, but over the last three years, the trend has continued.

Corporations Have a High Interest in Working with Nonprofits

How might your volunteer program partner with corporations and businesses? Here’s why now’s a good time to do work more closely with local corporations and their employee volunteer initiatives.

“For the first time in more than a decade, executives predict that investment will increase in the next three years on every dimension of corporate citizenship.” — Center for Corporate Citizenship, Boston College

1) Corporate volunteer programs are on the rise.

According to the Center for Corporate Citizenship at Boston College, corporate social responsibility is getting attention. Why? Because it generates bottom-line results. In their State of Corporate Citizenship Report 2014, that companies who focus on corporate citizenship are 2.2 times more likely to access new markets and 2.3 times as likely to retain employees. Moreover, companies with four or more years of corporate citizenship are 3.9 times as likely to reduce employee health costs. Companies like the public relations firm Edelman consider these initiatives part of their overall business strategy as evidenced by their annual citizenship report.

  • What’s in it for Volunteer Orgs? in the business world, momentum is clearly building for corporate social responsibility initiatives. Volunteer programs can be active partners for businesses seeking ways to make an impact through employee volunteers and, by getting out there early, volunteer managers can proactively set the agenda for how these partnerships play out in their community.

2) Businesses see volunteerism as a way to engage lukewarm Millennial employees.

According to Network for Good’s guide Engaging Millennial Employees, Millennials are more engaged when they believe their employer is socially responsible. They want “to work for organizations they believe in—a job isn’t just a job anymore.” Also, they note that the cost of replacing a Millennial employee is about $24,000. Companies with high employee engagement see a 16% increase in profitability over those that don’t. Companies have identified community engagement as a solid strategy for retaining young talent.

  • What’s in it for Volunteer Orgs? Employers are seeking ways to engage employees in work with causes that help them retain younger workers. By collaborating with local nonprofits, they can develop meaningful, longer-term engagements, beyond the one-off days of service, for younger employees who crave community connect and need to build hard skills. Volunteer managers can be strategic about structuring Millennial volunteer involvement so that it is in line with their program’s goals and objectives.

3) B Corps are on the rise and could be considered friends or competitors.

B Corps (or Benefit Corporations) are for-profit businesses that focus on generating positive benefits for society. In 2010, Maryland was the first state to allow B Corps. Over the past five years, 27 states have joined them. Mission-driven businesses, impact investors, and social entrepreneurs have been searching for new ways to focus their energy on social good versus solely on shareholders.

Enter the B Corp. This business structure allows for this flexibility while, at the same time, provides a structure to raise capital for operations and turn a profit. There are over 1,000 B Corps globally, and that number is growing. These businesses are sexy to investors, generating excitement, energy, and robust support. Points of Light’s Civic Accelerator is an advocate, helping both nonprofit and socially-minded for-profit startups (including B Corps) seek investments and scale their operations.

  • What’s in it for Volunteer Orgs? Brand new B Corps have resources and ideas but may not have the connections or front-line experience of a nonprofit in serving a particular population or community. A mutually beneficial partnership helps both sides build their capacity to make change together. In this case, the sum may be better than the parts.

4) Social “intrapreneurs” are evolving change agents inside companies.

Intrapreneurship defines an individual who takes responsibility for shepherding innovative ideas to fruition within a large corporation. They are self-motivated to go beyond the call of duty. According to Forbes, social intrapreneurs are talented employees who seek meaning and purpose through socially conscious projects in the workplace. Businesses offer a platform and resources to both keep valuable employees and meet society’s increasing expectations of the company’s role.

  • What’s in it for Volunteer Orgs? Although highly motivated, intrapreneurs may not clearly understand current community needs nor a history of previous strategies or interventions that may, or may not have been successful. Moreover, they may not have direct access to particular populations that might benefit from their innovation. This is a wonderful opportunity for nonprofits to offer wise counsel and for volunteer programs to provide human resources for projects that support their own organization’s mission.