For many groups of co-workers, the holiday season is when they think about giving back to the community and supporting local nonprofits in the neighborhoods where they do business. However, corporations are integral parts of their community year-round and the volunteer experience and the positive impact it has are indicators it should become a recurring habit, not a one-time goal.

More than 63 million Americans — a fourth of the population — volunteer each year and say they feel emotional, physical, and mental health benefits when they do so. That wellbeing isn’t just good for our personal lives, but our professional lives as well. The same habits we use to keep our businesses healthy are similar to those we use to keep our communities healthy, too. A business owner wouldn’t think about company improvements only once a quarter, and the same should be true for how businesses view contributing to the communities surrounding them.

Not only do corporate volunteer programs allow employees to make  the community a better place to live in, but they also increase revenue and create happier, more engaged employees. Furthermore,  nearly 90 percent of millennials — the largest generation in the U.S. labor force — say they find their jobs more fulfilling when they are given opportunities to make positive impacts in their communities.

At netlogx, we live and breathe our culture and call it “eating our own dog food.” It’s a phrase often used by organizations that refers to the practice of using your own products. In this case, it’s not a product, but a principle we endeavor to live by in order to connect the personal values and morals of our owners through our work in the community.

Businesses that are committed to their employees and the community can help build that culture in three distinct ways.

Time

Today, 60 percent of companies offer paid time off to employees when they volunteer. Time is scarce and many employees today feel they not only want to make a living, but make a difference while they are at it. Creating a formal volunteer time off (VTO) policy, eight hours per year is the average, has the added benefit of boosting employee engagement and a deeper understanding of your company culture.

Talent Acquisition

In addition to giving employees paid time off  to volunteer, the skills and talents your staff use in your own organization can also be used to influence a nonprofit’s business. For example, seasoned team members and interns from netlogx have worked together to solve complex operational challenges for Second Helpings. Like a lot of nonprofits, Second Helpings has a small team, and netlogx’ project work meant employees could be more efficient and effective in their mission to address Indiana’s food-insecure populations.

Financial Support

In 2017, corporate giving raised $20.77 billion for nonprofit organizations. However, financial support doesn’t have to mean just a donation. In lieu of a financial gift, organizations may choose to sponsor a scholarship for a nonprofit that works with students or career mentors. A lasting benefit to these types of donations includes name recognition of your business and the positive impact those funds help create for years to come.

As it becomes increasingly difficult to recruit and retain talent, one of the most important benefits a company can offer is allowing employees to feel inspired both in and outside the workplace. Corporate volunteer programs can start small and be implemented one piece at a time. Once ingrained into your corporate DNA, it will be a hard habit to break thanks to the benefits your employees, your organization and your community will reap.

Stephanie Sponsel is operations director at netlogx.

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