Corporate Volunteerism Does More Than Help People in Need
Organizations around the world, including LRN, spent part of Tuesday letting their employees volunteer their time as part of Giving Tuesday.
While the goal is to help those in need and to raise awareness and money for worthwhile charities and causes, there are side benefits to the companies that participate--among them the chance to showcase their values, build team togetherness and advance their own ethics and compliance programs.
One of the major roles of the ethics and compliance function is to create a culture based on organizational core values, said Beverly Kracher, chief executive of the Business Ethics Alliance in Omaha, Neb., and a professor of business ethics and society at Creighton University.
"Giving back feeds that function since, in many cases, organizations value a sense of participation and community," said Kracher, who added if a company wants to do good it needs to talk about how to do good in its community.
She cited as an example First National Bank, an Alliance member company that pledged in 2016 to re-invest $85 million and volunteer 100,000 hours in the Omaha community by 2020. A bank executive explained the company's philosophy in a blog post on the Alliance web site.
"The way we at First National Bank see it, businesses have an obligation to their communities because no business operates in a vacuum," the executive, David Cota, wrote.
"Companies that commit to taking care of their community and not just their bottom line put into motion a virtuous cycle: the business invests in its community, the community thrives, the community spends money at the business, and the cycle continues," he said. "Not only is it the right thing to do, but it’s also just plain good for business."
Volunteering is such a part of the culture at senior advocacy organization AARP that, in addition to its work every Sept. 11 as part of a national day of service, the company provides employees up to six days each year to participate in community service activities that support AARP’s commitment to volunteerism.
"It’s connected to our mission, our values, and our code of conduct. It’s what we do, what we believe and how we act," said Ellen Hunt, a senior vice president and audit, ethics and compliance officer at AARP. "We don’t just advocate for public policies that benefit people aged 50-plus, we also actually volunteer our time to help improve their lives."
AARP employees for the last 10 years have come together every Sept. 11 to volunteer to support the needs of seniors. This year they gathered in Washington, D.C., to help pack more than 1.5 million meals that are distributed locally to struggling seniors, including veterans and first responders," said Hunt.
AARP also offers its employees up to two weeks paid time off per calendar year to assist a family member who is aged 50 or older, or a family member of any age with a disability with reasonable personal care and daily activities.
Volunteering and service is at the "core to who we are and how we operate," said Hunt. "Without our volunteers, AARP would not be the organization that it is."
Kracher said organizations looking to engage in volunteering efforts should make sure the type of community involvement they do is consistent with who they are and their core products and services.
Hunt echoed the same sentiment. "It’s important that whatever effort is made there is a clear connection between what the organization does, what it stands for and how it gives back," she said.
At LRN, we had people in New York, Los Angeles, London and Mumbai take a few hours from their work days to offer help. We worked at homeless shelters, a hospice, an orphanage, a thrift shop whose proceeds help to fund social programs, and brought students from overlooked communities to our office to help them with their resumes and interviewing skills. We volunteered at an organization that assists farmers, took part in a conservation project, engaged in breast cancer awareness work, and handed out goodie bags to traffic cops and street cleaners.
"We, as humans, need connection to something larger than ourselves to truly flourish," said Jan Stanley, an LRN colleague who spent Tuesday afternoon at The Bowery Mission in New York sorting through clothes and helping women as they looked through the racks for something to help them stay warm, or that they could wear to a job interview.
"When organizations provide us pathways to do so, they are serving employee needs, providing benefits to the organization, and helping to contribute to society," she said. "That is leading with meaning."