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Reimagining Value Through Volunteerism

By Adam Robinson, Senior Director of Social Responsibility, ViacomCBS

Over the past year and a half, volunteering has taken on new meaning. Its value has been stretched, renewed, and redefined. From community partners to business objectives, what’s become evident over these last 18 months is a deeper need for collaboration, clear communication, and relevant, achievable goals. Volunteering has value, but it’s defining that value, which ultimately leads to results – on both sides of the stakeholder equation.  

This past spring CECP released Value Volunteering, a strategic report designed to help companies and nonprofits reimagine workplace volunteering by deepening understanding of its multi-layered impact in communities.

I had the pleasure of working on the research Leadership Council on behalf of ViacomCBS, together with colleagues from Credit Suisse, New York Life, Vanguard, USAA, New York Cares, and Philanthropy New York. The idea for this research was born long before both the pandemic and racial reckoning began rippling across communities. The turmoil of 2020 has been a brutal (but real) reminder of how important it is for each of us to actively step up for the causes we care about and to think critically about what “stepping up” means.

CECP and the Leadership Council encourage community partners and corporate leaders to download the paper to help inform your practice. Nonprofit leaders will hopefully feel empowered by seeing how much value your volunteer opportunities offer your corporate partners. And business leaders should feel encouraged to take new action to foster greater impact and integrate service more deeply in their organizations. 

Below are a few key takeaways from Value Volunteering

    • Social impact and meeting community needs are the main results and values produced through workplace volunteering programs. Period.
    • At the same time, program success can have rippling effects on business results, including reputation, trust, employee and consumer loyalty, and more.
    • Workplace volunteering has “built-in” results from high-quality programs. Certain programs also have “built-for” results. In the research, we break down each:
      • Built-in results include positive contributions to employee engagement, reputation, and team building.
      • Built-for results include positive contributions to recruitment, leadership skills, customer insights, employee retention, and client relationships.
    • Value Volunteering has the effect of approximately doubling trust and customer loyalty when people believe the workplace volunteering truly makes a difference.   
    • Value Volunteering has found that the most value is created by workplace volunteering programs that are intentional, thoughtfully designed, and authentic.
    • Most importantly, volunteer program design must be rooted first in the needs of nonprofit organizations and community stakeholders.

Together with Kyra Scalea, Vanguard and Gary Bagley, New York Cares, I helped pen the Call to Action in the report, which underscores: 

    • It’s not just about the voices at the table, it’s about the power those voices are given.
    • Don’t get lost in the return on investment. 
    • Not all good is created equal. 
    • Consider value volunteering your catalyst; a go-to resource to guide your next steps as you: 
      • Level-set
      • Have the conversations
      • Explore the opportunities
      • And eventually, collectively: listen — set strategies, build programs, and design goals. 

I hope you read, learn, and enjoy. But most importantly, I hope it inspires every reader to take some new action to reimagine workplace volunteering.