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Smart Benefits: Volunteering on Company Time

Monday, May 14, 2012

 

BCBSRI's Blue Angel Volunteers: in 2011, volunteers from the company donated nearly 3,500 hours to 27 different organizations. Photo: BCBSRI.

In most companies, it’s not just the leaders of the organization who support the local community, but the employees as well. And many employers, large and small, are strengthening staff involvement by encouraging employees to give back – on company time.

Volunteer Time Off

Volunteer Time Off (VTO) is one benefit warmly received by employees. With a VTO, employees are given a number of hours during the work day to volunteer for organizations the employer supports or others to fulfill their own interests.

Get Cultural

To be successful, an organization’s corporate social responsibility program should align with the company’s mission and values. A healthcare organization may want to aid in treatment transportation for cancer patients, an accounting firm may want to help a math mentoring program for inner city kids, and a local grocery chain may support a food bank.

To have the greatest impact, many companies choose to channel resources toward just a few organizations rather than spreading their support among a lot of different causes. And the best way to identify those organizations is to solicit feedback on employees’ top personal concerns.

Move Forward with Giving Back

Before offering a VTO benefit, employers should determine how the time off will work in the organization.

  • Gauge interest in a VTO before rolling it out.
  • Experiment with the amount of time off to determine the right balance. For example, the employer may offer 8 hours of volunteer time off during the course of the first year, then up it the following.
  • Have each employee sign off on their hours spent volunteering and the organization they helped.
  • To build momentum within the company, encourage employees to share their experiences with others.
  • Measure participation in the VTO to determine its success and whether it’s worth continuing.

 

Taking Volunteerism Corporate-Wide

Once an employer selects a cause or causes to back, in addition to driving employee involvement through the VTO benefit, employees and the employer can join forces for community events that support the cause and raise visibility.

Corporate team events, which can be coupled with sponsorships or public relations campaigns, are a great opportunity to showcase the company’s cohesive support, boost staff morale and camaraderie, and highlight the organization’s benevolence – which can go a long way to helping the employer’s recruiting and retention efforts.

Looking for ideas who to support locally? With 60,000 Rhode Islanders needing help with food and the state’s homeless rate rising every day, two organizations could benefit from corporate support: the Rhode Island Community Food Bank and Crossroads Rhode Island, which help provide food and shelter for those who need it in our community every day.

Amy Gallagher has over 19 years of healthcare industry experience.  As Vice President at Cornerstone Group, she advises large employers on long-term cost-containment strategies, consumer-driven solutions and results-driven wellness programs. Amy speaks regularly on a variety of healthcare-related topics, is a member of local organizations like the Rhode Island Business Group on Health, HRM-RI, SHRM, WELCOA, and the Rhode Island Business Healthcare Advisory Council, and participates in the Lieutenant Governor’s Health Benefits Exchange work group of the Health Care Reform Commission.

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