For office manager Joan Baron of Alternate Access Inc., a computer-telephony company based in Raleigh, North Carolina, the workday is full of little details. But what makes her day even busier is her volunteer work for Project Tanzania, a group searching for solutions to the poverty and famine problems in Africa. Baron occasionally makes time for her volunteer work while on the job, sometimes sending a few e-mails and faxes from the office on behalf of the organization, or taking a few hours away from the office to help out. "[Volunteering] is a part of who I am," she says.
It's also a big part of who Alternate Access' owners, Kelly and Adrienne Lumpkin, are. Throughout the com-pany's 7-year history, community service has offered a welcome diversion from building the company. Adrienne is active in Junior Achievement, and the couple even met while volunteering for a college MBA organization.
But what can the average entrepreneur of a busy, growing company get out of letting employees volunteer during work hours? A lot, according to Adam J. Goodman, president of the University of Colorado, Boulder's Student Leadership Institute, which does research on leadership and public service in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. Says Goodman, "Companies with effective volunteer programs have increased employee retention and better teamwork and morale."
Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.