Why volunteering is essential to employee engagement

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To some employees, benefits aren’t just about receiving healthcare and perks — they’re also the opportunity to give back.

Fingerpaint — a health and wellness marketing firm in Saratoga Springs, New York — considers volunteering to be so essential to their engagement strategy that they hired an HR professional whose entire job revolves around organizing it.

“Employees can be choosey about where they work in this talent market,” says Bo Goliber, head of philanthropy at Fingerpaint. “More and more, companies are realizing that employees crave a sense of connection from their work and it often influences their decision to stay at a company.”

Goliber spoke with Employee Benefit News about how employers can incorporate volunteering into their engagement strategy.

What are the benefits of having volunteer opportunities as part of your engagement strategy?

I do believe in this day and age that companies need to keep corporate social responsibility at the forefront. We hear from a lot of our candidates that they’re looking for a company that’s passionate about giving back. It’s especially important for attracting younger workers; they’re looking for companies that allow them to engage with their community.

When you offer volunteer programs, you naturally attract candidates who are passionate about giving back, which means they’re probably a good human, in addition to being a talented worker. It definitely helps build a good team dynamic to have those people in the office.

What types of volunteer opportunities should employers look into?

First and foremost, you have to know your audience. It helps to conduct surveys or talk to people in your organization about what causes they’re passionate about. I always ask employees during the onboarding process. Once you know what your employees care about, research organizations in your area that address these needs. Then contact them and ask what they need.

Once, Fingerpaint hosted something called “Operation Lunch Lady,” where we made 80,000 non-perishable meals for local food pantries, and raised $20,000 for the organization through crowdfunding.

Keep in mind, it can be more valuable to help younger organizations who don’t have as much resources to fulfill their mission. A great way to do this is through pro bono work. For example, we used our creative talent to create a marketing campaign to raise awareness for a local organization.

Just like anything else about building a relationship, you have to learn what your nonprofit partners need so you’re actually helping, and not creating more work for them. I worked for a nonprofit before my current role, so I know what it’s like to be in those shoes.

Why should employers do this during the holidays?

Obviously my company is big into doing this year-round, but that’s not always possible for other employers. If you can only do it once or twice a year, the holidays are a great time because giving tends to be top of mind, and there are a lot of opportunities to get involved. You can also offer an annual philanthropy day, like our company does, where you close down the office one Friday and volunteer together. It’s great for team building, and it gives employees the opportunity to engage with coworkers in other departments.

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