Baron is just one of a growing number of employees looking to community service as a way to give something back. In fact, a 1999 study by Independent Sector, a nonprofit coalition of foundations and corporations that encourages volunteerism and philanthropy, found that nearly 109 million adults ages 18 and over volunteered in 1998, up from 93 million in 1995. Volunteers in 1998 put in an estimated 19.9 billion hours on activities where the only payment was a thank-you.
Why? It's a sign of the times. Employees enjoying comfortable salaries want to give back, and want to know that their employers have social consciences. "We're recognizing that community service is a given, especially for younger workers, and they're looking for companies that value it," says recruiting director John Worth of Deloitte Consulting, which recently gathered more than 500 partners and staff together to build a park in downtown Atlanta. Volunteerism has become an important recruiting and retention tool for Deloitte and other large companies, and smaller firms are quickly catching on.
Volunteering is also making its way into many business plans. A 1999 Points of Light Foundation study that surveyed a cross section of American business by location, size and sector, found that 81 percent of the companies surveyed had incorporated volunteering into their overall business strategies, up from 31 percent in 1992.
Employee volunteer programs also offer you some of the best low-cost image marketing that a company can get. "The public values volunteerism more than philanthropy, and it's easier to justify to shareholders," says Steve Rochlin, director of research and policy development for the Boston College Center for Corporate Community Relations in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.
Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.