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Service in Seconds: The Benefits of Lunchtime Volunteering

2013 August 22
by HandsOn Suburban Chicago


Employee volunteer programs are increasingly becoming an important part of overall Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. While corporate volunteerism undoubtedly has a positive effect in the community, according to Causecast, a 2010 survey of 184 companies by the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy revealed that the top-cited reasons for community investment programs were “brand trust and reputation,” and “employee engagement and retention.” Given that employee volunteer programs are mutually beneficial to both corporations and nonprofits, it is not surprising that 89% of companies surveyed had formal employee volunteer programs.

Flexibility for Increased Engagement

Last year, Zurich in North America, launched its “100 Ways to Serve” initiative in celebration of the company’s 100th Anniversary. The goal was for the company, with offices throughout North America, to complete 100 service projects throughout the year. Employees were given the freedom to plan their own service activities, and while there were plenty full-day and longer-term projects, many departments opted for quick lunchtime projects that would allow for maximum engagement with minimal time commitment. The flexibility afforded to employees resulted in increased engagement in the campaign, and ensured that Zurich far exceeded its goal for 100 projects, with employees participating in over 500 projects over the course of the year.

Short Project, Big Impact

Shorter projects allow more people to get involved, which can lead to big impact. This week, over 100 Altria employees spent time on their lunch hours during all three shifts in order to assemble 312 backpacks with school supplies to donate to a low-income school in Hanover Park. This donation will ensure that nearly 60% of students in the school will have the supplies needed to have a successful school year, and most employees needed to invest only 2-3 minutes of their lunch hours to achieve this result. This project, however, was not without cost—Altria donated over $4000 to purchase supplies for the event.

While packaging projects can be a big investment, lunchtime projects can also achieve results with little to no budget. Many of Zurich’s “100 Ways” micro-opportunities, such as writing letters to soldiers, making birthday cards for cancer patient and creating awards for a volunteer recognition dinner, cost little to no money, but filled a big need for a nonprofit. Some employees were even able to engage in pro-bono projects, such as speaking on a Risk Management panel for nonprofit leaders, over their lunch hours. Options such as video chat and conference calling now mean that employees do not even need to leave their offices in order to offer their expertise as part of trainings or panel discussions.

Lunchtime volunteering benefits everyone involved. The simplicity of the projects allow even the busiest employees to participate, and result in increased CSR engagement for employers. More importantly, “micro-volunteering” fills genuine community needs while providing greater visibility to nonprofits.

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