April is National Volunteer Month

How National Volunteer Month Can Help For-Profit Companies

Author: Ann Echols
Volunteer Centre County, Executive Director

April is National Volunteer Month. What a great reason to promote over 85 local nonprofits in Centre County that need volunteers and donated goods! Centre County is fortunate to have such a wonderful composition of nonprofit organizations spanning different 17 categories of services. Rich in opportunities, these organizations seek volunteers to help them fulfill their services, as well as donated goods to keep their budgets affordable.

Encouraging employees to volunteer carries many benefits. It shows an interest in community health and well-being, bringing to light one’s intentions of making Centre County stronger for all. Volunteering can also offer community connections and visibility. Many skilled volunteers are in demand, and allowing employees to participate in helping a nonprofit by utilizing their specific skill set once a month for 4 hours or so can be huge in terms of adding meaningfulness to the employees’ experiences and also by adding the help needed by the nonprofit. Volunteer Time Off (VTO) is practiced by many Fortune 500 corporations. The change of venue and pace that volunteering offers may jump-start feeling invigorated and motivated as one practices their skills by using them in a similar but different capacity. More workers than ever before now want to work for companies that include a component of social responsibility or giving back.

Volunteering can create a more engaged and purpose-driven workforce. Allowing employees to share their skills with nonprofits by volunteering as a team can build morale and more cohesive teams. Working together to make a positive impact stimulates creativity, problem-solving, and the emotional feel-goods associated with having accomplished something that makes a direct difference in the lives of others. Regardless of the industry, allowing purpose-driven work via once-a-month volunteering can result in longer expected tenures, a greater interest in leadership positions, and higher work satisfaction levels. From a human resources perspective, this makes volunteering an ideal investment.

In addition, evidence of corporate social responsibility is attractive to many investors and customers, as well as to employees. Giving back is great for public relations. Spotlighting employees who volunteer, and their impact as a result of their efforts, gives a reason for a social media post or news article. This is a triple win because attention is given to the company, the nonprofit, and the employee. Investors and customers appreciate this type of social media as it shares a local story about people they may know and a cause they may support. It is “homey”, personal, and authentic. People like what’s unique. People like to see those they know uplifted.

Central Pennsylvania SCORE is a Volunteer Centre County Community Partner, and the SCORE website (https://www.score.org/resource/blog-post/14-ways-small-businesses-can-participate-volunteer-work) offers 14 ways that small businesses can participate in volunteer work. This website promotes volunteering by carrying out donation drives, as well as directly volunteering by completing a service activity for the nonprofit. Donation drives can encourage fun and healthy competition by having different work departments compete to collect, for example, the most CATA bus tokens, individually wrapped snacks, paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning supplies, etc. These items are in need by several Volunteer Centre County Community Partners (see: https://volunteercentrecounty.org/donations-needed) and they are relatively inexpensive and make for easy donation drives.

Or perhaps the for-profit corporation wishes to give back by doing what it does best, offering one of its products or services in a charity auction. Auctions, whether silent, online, or in person, are popular ways for local charities to fundraise. Gathering items, gift cards, service vouchers, and experiences (e.g., those offered on the AirB&B app) are valuable contributions to a charity’s auction. Such a donation can get the donor’s name into new markets and in front of other local donors and supporters who may not have heard of them yet. This is of course a form of advertising, and it comes under the category of doing good, so that’s a win-win! Greater Giving, a company that sells fundraising software, says that if the donor is physically present at the auction where the donor’s item is offered, the ability to network with other donors and supporters of the charity can bring added rewards. We are not talking about turning charity events into sales conferences. However, if the topic comes up, it doesn’t hurt to let people know of a product’s or service’s benefits and value while keeping the focus on the cause.

Lastly, think of how your company’s product or service may be used by the people that the nonprofit directly serves. Make the connection between what your for-profit firm does and the markets served by the nonprofit firms. Digital Marketing Institute (https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/blog/corporate-16-brands-doing-corporate-social-responsibility-successfully) cites a recent poll (https://nypost.com/2023/08/22/most-gen-z-millennials-base-purchases-on-brands-mission-poll/) finding that young Americans prefer brands held to a higher standard: 80 percent are likely to base their purchases on a brand’s mission or purpose, while 74 percent would boycott brands for crossing an ethical line and going against their personal values. So, says the Digital Marketing Institute, “Companies need to share how they are trying to make a positive impact on the world, so the public can see their pro-social initiatives. Showcasing efforts is key so it’s important to learn how to market to millennials because these efforts will sway the choices they make as consumers.”

Clearly, National Volunteer Month is not just for nonprofits. In a way, it is more about for-profits. For-profit firms hone employee skill sets that result in valuable volunteer hours, create valuable products and services that directly benefit those served in addition to charity fundraising, and seek corporate social responsibility strategies that offer benefits sought especially by the new workforce and younger customers. Learn more about Centre County’s nonprofit community this month and strategize how your company can create a win-win!