Tech industry publication Techjury reported this year that an estimated 63 million Americans volunteer every year, roughly $139 billion worth of time annually. In North Carolina, just over 35% of residents volunteer each year for some nonprofit organization or cause, according to AmeriCorps.
Despite these numbers, volunteer activity by individuals has been stagnant or has fallen in recent years, Harvard Business Review reported in early 2021. In the corporate world, however, it is on the rise, the report continued.
“Paid time off for volunteering is one of the few employee benefits that has increased significantly in recent years,” the article stated.
This news does not come as a surprise to Tommy Taylor.
“Companies are having trouble retaining talent,” said Taylor, CEO of United Way of the Cape Fear Area (UWCFA). “When I did my capstone project to get my master’s [degree, at University of North Carolina Wilmington], I surveyed outgoing seniors. Regardless of whether they were going into the nonprofit or the for-profit world, the significant goal was they all wanted to make a difference.”
This July, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported that young workers generally say they prefer to work for companies that have a commitment to corporate social responsibility. The organization encouraged companies to offer paid time off for community volunteering as a company benefit.
In 2022, 47% of U.S. companies are offering community volunteer programs, up from 40% in 2014, according to SHRM.
Tech company CloudWyze is heavily involved in UWCFA, both through company and employee donations and in giving of their time and talent to the organization. Recently, United Way and CloudWyze partnered on a Habitat for Humanity project.
That project, said CloudWyze human resources director Katie Seidel, is typical of the volunteer initiatives her company tries to take on at least once a quarter. Its next community volunteer project will take place in Nash County, North Carolina, where CloudWyze has installed a fixed wireless system. Participating employees are paid just as if they were at work.
Nonprofits that thrive with the help of volunteers are not volunteerism’s only beneficiaries.
Companies see results in the workplace when they and their employees lend a hand to community nonprofits.
“It’s a value to them and a team-building opportunity for them, a good way to be engaged in the community and plugged into what we do as well,” Taylor said of the companies that volunteer through UWCFA.
Wilmington-based cloud banking firm nCino has a large-scale volunteer initiative called nVolve.
“nCino is proud to partner with several environmental organizations including NCWF [N.C. Wildlife Federation] and Plastic Ocean Project to support their efforts in keeping the community clean and beautiful,” said Dory Weiss, the company’s vice president of sustainability and social impact. “This year, we started reporting our beach clean-up data to the NCWF for their Trees4Trash initiative, and it’s a partnership we’re very excited about. They have committed to planting one tree for every 25 pounds of trash removed from the environment. So far this year we’ve removed approximately 220 pounds of trash from the Wilmington area.”
nVolve was formed in 2014 by a group of employees who were passionate about community involvement, and, Weiss said, it is an organization that encourages nCino employees to share with each other the causes and organizations they are passionate about.
The nonprofit beneficiaries of corporate volunteerism can enhance the experience for participants, said Beth Gaglione, Wilmington branch director of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.
“It primarily motivates them in spending time together other than doing their jobs,” she said.
“Not only are they getting our work done, they are seeing the importance of the work we do and knowing that these services are here for people when they need them. But the goal also is to have fun.”
Companies can also structure the experience to benefit their workplace.
“One company strategically mixes people up so they collide, if you will,” said Steve McCrossan, executive director of NourishNC. “Larger companies may send different departments every time. It’s been a good opportunity for employees to get out of the office and socialize with people they don’t normally see. We get to show them our facility; they often come back on their own. So we are seeing a donation from the company, getting their people in as a group, and then getting their folks involved.”
Leadership Wilmington is a program of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. Each year’s class takes on a blitzkrieg day of volunteering through a program called Work on Wilmington (WOW).
Applications from area nonprofits, governmental organizations, schools and groups who need help with a WOW project are due this year by Oct. 17 and are available online at wilmingtonchamber.org
“Since 2006, WOW has been organized by each class of Leadership Wilmington,” said Suzanne Jalot, director of communications for WARM and marketing chair for next April’s WOW. “This year 36 leaders with diverse backgrounds are busy working behind the scenes organizing projects, soliciting sponsors, mobilizing volunteers and getting the word out about this incredible day of service.”