We’ve gathered evidence that supports the business case for corporate volunteering from a talent, engagement and recruitment perspective, as well as from the employee perspective. We’ve chosen these proofs, too, because they resonate with our mission: to give our clients the systems, processes, tools and resources to engage experienced, enthusiastic volunteer leaders in the practice of Transformative Volunteerism.
The primary focus of Transformative Volunteering is the change that occurs in the volunteers themselves. Volunteering programs and activities are designed to invite all participants to “engage in critical reflection on their experiences, which in turn leads to a perspective transformation.” This transformation in an individual’s perspective is necessary to achieve change at the psychological, convictional, and behavioral level.
Check out the research below for individual and business benefits. For more detailed information on the health benefits of volunteering, refer to the Health Benefits of Volunteering for the Employee Volunteer Blog by Realized Worth.
I. Evolutionary Reinforcement
“The Neuroevolution of Empathy,” published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences,states, “The fronto-mesolimbic reward network is engaged to the same extent when individuals receive monetary rewards and when they freely choose to donate money to charitable organizations.” Author Jean Decety found through behavioral and functional neuroimaging studies that prosocial actions release dopamine and make us feel good (we’ve written about this effect before). Decety’s work explains that our brains are hard-wired to reinforce prosocial behaviors such as giving and volunteering.
II. The empathy-generosity feedback loop
In Live Science, Leonardo Christov-Moore says: “The more we tend to vicariously experience the states of others, the more we appear to be inclined to treat them as we would ourselves.” In a phrase, empathy improves generosity and vice versa. Our brains contain mirror neurons, which, as neuroscientist Marco Lacoboni explains to Six Seconds, are the cells in our brains that “allow us to understand other’s actions, intentions, and feelings.” When we see someone experiencing grief, for example, we don’t need to “think” about their feelings — our mirror neurons let us experience it firsthand.
III. The Helper’s High
Over the past few decades, scientists have studied the health benefits of pro-social behavior, often referred to as “helper’s high.” Those who volunteer have lower rates of depression, lower mortality rates, higher self-esteem, and greater functional ability than those who do not volunteer. A 2005 study showed that volunteers actually experience greater benefits than the people receiving their support. When we give, our brains release dopamine, serotonin, and lots of other happy hormones that make you feel warm and tingly inside.
I. Retention and loyalty
Adam Grant conducted multi-method research at a Fortune 500 retail corporation and found that offering employees the opportunity to give within the workplace “strengthened affective organizational commitment by triggering prosocial sensemaking about the self—a process through which employees interpreted their personal actions and identities in more caring terms.” Workplace giving and volunteering is a practical step companies can take to prove they care, “signaling that helping, giving, and contributing behaviors are valid, acceptable, and encouraged.” As employees interpret these signals, they begin to form an identity that will contribute to the overall productivity and profitability of the company.
II. Better Job Performance
Research by Jessica Rodell in The Academy of Management indicates that “volunteering wasassociated with both volunteer and job meaningfulness, and that the pull of meaningful volunteer work was even stronger when employees had less meaning in their jobs. The results further revealed benefits of volunteering for employers. Volunteering was related to job absorption but not job interference, and it was therefore associated with better job performance.”
III. Recruiting and retaining talent
Research published in Frontiers in Psychology says top employees are attracted to companies that offer volunteering and giving. “For recruitment practice, our results suggest that the net effect of leveraging CSR practices in employee recruitment is clearly a positive one from the perspective of a hiring organization. The majority of our participants — about two-thirds of them — reported they were more attracted to the employer as a result of its community investment or environmental strategies.” However, the research contains a very distinct and important warning: if the company’s CSR program is seen to be inauthentic or too small, prospective employees will take a negative position towards the company. In those cases where a company may not be willing to substantially invest in CSR, it may be better to not use citizenship programs in recruiting efforts. Additionally, community investment programs must be experienced as meaningful and relational.
We are experts in integrating volunteerism into your CSR strategy in a meaningful, relational way that has positive results for the employee, the community and your company. Learn more about our approach here.
Realized Worth is a global agency that specializes in employee volunteer training, volunteer program design, and employee engagement. Want to talk? Shoot us an email. You can also reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter.