Contributed Column

An Entrepreneur’s Perspective

by Christopher Loso

Volunteerism is good for business

Companies are realizing the importance of volunteerism and investing increasingly more money and resources into employee volunteer programs and community engagement projects. In fact, volunteering has steadily become the center of many corporate social responsibility initiatives. Small businesses have also made a difference at a local level. Based on data provided by the Vermont Department of Labor, Vermont firms with fewer than 500 employees account for 77.6 percent of the total private employment in the state. They are also well connected within their communities.

A national study from the website Volunteering and Civic Life in America showed that the national volunteer rate reached a five-year high in 2011. Over 64.3 million Americans (more than one in four adults) volunteered in 2011, an increase of 1.5 million from 2010. The 7.9 billion hours they volunteered was valued at $171 billion. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released similar results on volunteerism in 2014.

There are plenty of reasons for businesses to become involved in volunteerism, donating company time or encouraging employee volunteerism. Whether your business is large or small, engaging in activities that support your community can produce tangible rewards with networking, brand-building, fostering customer loyalty, and recruiting quality employees. Volunteer work can:

Build interpersonal relationships

Involvement in a civic endeavor puts you in contact with people you might never meet otherwise. Some of them will have knowledge and experience that may prove helpful to your business.

Create indirect marketing opportunities

The relationships you make as a volunteer can generate business simply through word of mouth. People volunteering alongside you may need (or know others who need) your product or service. Once they get to know you and your offerings, they may recommend it to their friends, family members, or colleagues.

Strengthen your brand

A business engaged in volunteer work often finds its brand enhanced because of the reputation gained from doing something beyond making a profit. Current and prospective customers tend to remember (and buy) brands associated with community good will.

Establish stronger community ties

Volunteerism brings you recognition and appreciation. It’s a great way to build awareness of your company and to establish a reputation as a business that cares about giving back.

Increase employee camaraderie

Most of your employees are likely from the same community, so local causes will be close to their hearts. By providing opportunities for them to give back, you offer a strong team-building experience that’s outside commercial pursuits. Many potential hires also value a company that invests in community service.

Expand your knowledge

Volunteer work offers insights into the needs of others while enabling you to grow as an individual. The increased empathy you develop for people in need broadens your understanding of the community.

Many entrepreneurs seek out volunteer opportunities related to their personal interests, and often find ways to help it tie in with their work. If you sell pet supplies, for example, volunteering at the local animal shelter is a great way to expand your activities in a business-related area. I have embraced volunteerism as part of my company’s mission. I volunteer time and resources to a number of charities within the community. I find it to be a valuable experience, both for me and my business.

Community organizations welcome the volunteer services of local businesses. If you’re interested, your area’s chamber of commerce, United Way, and other civic organizations will be happy to help steer you toward an appropriate opportunity. Reach out and see how your company can benefit while making a difference in your community. •

Christopher Loso is vice president of Loso’s Professional Janitorial Services Inc. in South Burlington and chair of the GCEPD.

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