[GUEST BLOG] Volunteerism – Make a Difference for Your Community and Business

Kathy Bolner, Wells Fargo Austin Community Banking president

The power of workplace volunteerism is huge –Americans are volunteering in record numbers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ January 2010 report, 1.5 million more Americans volunteered between September 2008 and September 2009 than the previous year.

Wells Fargo team members in Austin have been actively involved with the United Way for many years and in fact, our Diversity Council and Team Member Networks are already planning projects to support the “Day of Caring” campaign in the Spring.  In addition to working for a company that has contributed more than $1.6 million to the United Way since 1999, I have also had the honor of serving on the United Way’s Campaign Cabinet and the Community Advisory Council.

Why? Because it’s the right thing to do. Yet there also is a host of business benefits that can result from community service. Read on for a few examples of win-win situations that can be created when businesses support their employee volunteerism.

Employee Camaraderie. Company-sponsored volunteer events provide a two-pronged benefit: they empower team members to support worthwhile causes and provide the opportunity to meet coworkers outside of their work area. Getting together outside the workplace fosters relationships between team members and helps us call our coworkers “friends.” Company sponsored volunteer events can also help build bridges between internal workgroups.

Recruitment. Demonstrating your company’s commitment to community service may also help recruitment efforts. Even with unemployment rates at 4.1 percent in Texas, human resources departments in our community are working to recruit qualified team members. Employers have long touted benefits such as health care and vacation time. Letting prospective team members also know about your company’s commitment to community service should also be part of that list. One recent study shows more than 80 percent of us in the workforce review a company’s commitment to social issues when we are considering a new job.

Corporate Reputation. More and more, consumers are paying attention to a company’s reputation for philanthropy and community support when making buying decisions. According to the 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study – an 11-year research poll – more than 70 percent of Americans say a company’s commitment to a social issue is an important factor when deciding whether or not to recommend the company’s products and services to others.

In fact, that same study indicates Americans between the ages of 18 to 25 are significantly more likely to consider a company’s citizenship practices when making purchasing decisions.

Long-term Business Health. Doing business in a healthy, vibrant community is beneficial for commerce. Taking an active approach to helping make your community an even better place is a smart way to help secure your company’s place in your community’s future.

Community Feedback. Workplace volunteers are in a unique position to talk to prospective customers and community stakeholders about what is going on in the community. This insight and feedback can be helpful when determining new services or products. It is also helpful when assessing how well your company is responding to the needs of your community.

You don’t have to be a Fortune 500 company to have a workplace volunteer program. Just talk to your friends at the United Way!  They can help you develop a meaningful program – for your business, employees and community.
Kathy Bolner is the Community Banking president for Wells Fargo in Austin.

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