“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
― Winston S. Churchill
Giving back to our communities and to those in need makes our lives more meaningful. Not only do we encourage our kids to do community service while they’re in school, but many people spend weekends doing volunteer work, often through an organized group or a religious institution.
But increasingly, volunteering is making its way into the work week – and sometimes even into the workplace. In fact, according to the 2014 Millennial Impact Study, more than 50 percent of millennials were influenced to accept a job based on that company’s involvement with causes.
It’s more and more common to see companies organizing at-work charity drives or weekday community service activities that employees can take part in, which combine giving back to the community with employee team building, active leadership and comradery. According to Charity Village, some companies find so much value in community involvement and volunteerism that they are paying their employees to volunteer! While this may only be a limited number of companies, the trend is growing – an annual study of employer benefits by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 20 percent of respondents offered this perk!
So why do corporations love community service?
First, it’s a great team-building activity. A community service activity is a more effective way to increase cooperation among employees than, say, an office happy hour. In addition to offering challenging activities, doing something in the service of others opens up a level of meaning and purpose that many of us don’t get in our day-to-day job. That can build stronger bonds among coworkers.
If an employer sponsors the volunteer activities, it can improve employee morale and make employees feel more positively about the place they work. This can increase employee engagement. And increased engagement has been shown to boost productivity, giving you a competitive advantage.
Volunteering is a great opportunity to develop leadership skills. Leading a team of volunteers teaches the same interpersonal and leadership skills that leading a team of coworkers would. Volunteer work is a place where people feel free to experiment more, which is a great way to learn new skills. For example, a volunteer might help a charity plan a fundraiser and discover a knack for event-planning that he or she can apply at work.
Of course, at the end of the day, the true value of giving back isn’t about what you get out of it. It’s meaningful because you’re doing something to help another person or group with no expectation of a reward.
As Winston Churchill said so eloquently in the quote above, life is more vibrant when we give of ourselves to others. While some of us are lucky enough to give to others in our work, most of us work to support ourselves and our families — which is meaningful in and of its self. But that meaning is made deeper and more profound when we reach out to support others in our community and even strangers in need. Bring the idea of giving back into your workplace and see how your own community can thrive.
If you’re looking for opportunities to get your workplace involved in your community, The Corporation for National Community Service is a great place to start your search.
Steve Dunmore is CEO of k-12 Schools for Sodexo North America where he leads the operations and strategic growth for comprehensive service solutions in nearly 500 public school districts. Mr. Dunmore is passionate about engaging youth and ending childhood hunger. He serves on the Boards of the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation, Youth Service America and Women’s Foodservice Forum.
— Sodexo USA, Inc. (@sodexoUSA) April 19, 2016