Community volunteerism has internal, external benefits for business
Positive publicity and elevated brand perception are the superficial benefits of corporate community engagement.
However, scratching a bit below the surface uncovers much deeper gains that come from corporate volunteerism, offering rewards to be reaped both outside as well as within an organization. More and more companies are realizing that shedding the pejorative connotation of business as a large, impersonal force – and revealing the boots-on-the-ground, troops-in-the-trenches human side of business – can not only boost the immediate surrounding community served by an organization, but it can also serve as a powerful tool in nurturing a more positive company culture among employees.
For several years, the multinational professional services network Deloitte has conducted volunteer impact research to measure important aspects of corporate community engagement. Findings have shown that volunteerism helps employees develop leadership skills as well as strengthen the overall workplace environment. Millennials, in particular, were found to be more proud, loyal and satisfied employees when they were provided with frequent opportunities to engage in workplace volunteer activities.
“It appears that many employees understand the value of volunteering and have the desire to do more, but they aren’t reaping the full benefits,” Doug Marshall, managing director of corporate citizenship for Deloitte, said in a 2017 news release. “Employers have an opportunity to build on their volunteerism programs by creating a culture that celebrates volunteering and empowers volunteers to be more active.”
Locally, one such employer that has embraced the concept of empowering its employees through volunteerism is Maner Costerisan, a full-service public accounting and business advisory firm headquartered in Lansing.
“Maner Costerisan’s employees are actively involved in the community through serving on nonprofit boards of directors and volunteering their time. In addition to individual efforts, we have a long history of coming together as a firm to support various organizations,” said Sarah Jennings, director of strategic initiatives and community engagement for Maner Costerisan.
The firm has a Give Back Committee, which organizes numerous volunteer and fundraising opportunities throughout the year, plus it launched the Maner Costerisan Cares program last year, which encompasses community engagement efforts. Maner Costerisan Cares kicked off Nov. 1, 2018, with the company’s inaugural Day of Impact event. Employees donated 405 volunteer hours to charities and community organizations across Michigan during the first Day of Impact.
“The amount of participation and community impact was outstanding,” said Amber Rathburn, chair of the Give Back Committee. “Over 85% of employees participated in the event, volunteering for two to four hours each, helping a total of 17 organizations in five different communities. We sent teams out to nonprofit organizations in Allegan County, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Grand Rapids and the Greater Lansing area. Some of the projects involved networking with youth, playing games and socializing with veterans, hanging Christmas lights at the Potter Park Zoo, cleaning up parks and doing yard work for senior citizens. We received a lot of positive feedback from the organizations served, the employees who participated and clients who learned of the efforts.”
Supporting communities is a vital part of the culture and climate Maner Costerisan seeks to provide and encourage, Jennings explained. The firm’s corporate responsibility model focuses on the expectation that concentrated action with purpose outside of one’s own needs are key to progression.
“We feel, from the top down, that it is the responsibility of businesses to support community endeavors and give back time, talent and treasure,” said Jennings. “We encourage all of our team members to do the same in ways that are meaningful to them. Our mantra is to give back in the communities in which our clients live, work and play. We want not only our clients’ businesses to thrive, but their communities as well, and we are so excited to be directly involved with that in a very hands-on way.”
Maner Costerisan’s Day of Impact is continuing as an annual event held on the first Thursday of November, which falls on Nov. 7 this year.
“In 2019, we are excited to expand our participants by inviting alumni to join us on this special day,” explained Jennings. “Our focus is nonprofit organizations in the communities where our clients live, work and play. This could involve countless types of projects such as winterization of grounds, setting up for an upcoming event, career training or networking with youth, park cleanup, outdoor cleanup for senior citizens, etc. These are all projects that we helped within 2018, and we are looking forward to expanding the types of activities we help within 2019 based on requests that we receive.”