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Best companies & best practices in volunteering

Joe & Karen smallBy Amanda Ponzar

How would you like to get paid to volunteer? Impossible?

If you worked for Wells Fargo, you could. The company has an absolutely amazing volunteer program. For 36 years, Wells Fargo has provided fully paid volunteer leave for team members –- for up to four months -– to work on a significant project impacting a nonprofit organization or school. In 2011, Wells Fargo awarded more than 26 team members representing more than 32.5 months of paid leave. I’ve never heard any company that does this. Have you?

That’s putting your money where your mouth is, or at least recognizing that it helps to get your employees out into the community. (Plus, it doesn’t hurt employee morale either; people feel better about themselves and their company when they can give back & volunteer, etc.).

Many of the companies I work with have strong volunteer programs and understand how crucial
this is on a number of levels. When I think of top companies that lead the way in volunteering, it’s giants like Wells Fargo, AT&T, IBM, UPS, Intel, Bank of America, Microsoft and Deloitte.

Plus, let’s be honest, nonprofits, schools, churches, etc. here in the U.S. and around the world need a lot of help these days, and with budgets being what they are, volunteers are more valuable than ever. Companies and individuals can help even more by providing skilled volunteerism or pro bono work –- that nonprofits would otherwise have to pay for. I’ve talked about this before. Financial expertise/accounting, writing/marketing, design/web, social media, business planning, landscaping, painting, cooking –- everything you know how to do, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, can
help someone else.

For example, quite a few of the corporate partners I work with (Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Microsoft, etc.) have skilled employees who help provide free tax preparation for lower-income workers –- returning thousands of dollars in returns and tax credits to hardworking individuals and families, plus providing billions in revenue across the country that is re-invested in

Plus, calculated at the Independent Sector rate of $20.85 an hour, volunteer hours can really add up in actual value. So, even if you can’t give a ton of money, you can give your time. And donate your goods to Salvation Army, Goodwill, Gifts in Kind, etc. (And don’t get me wrong, nonprofits need money too).

And on the topic of money, United Way just named Wells Fargo the top national campaign for the third consecutive year. So the company isn’t just about volunteering, it’s about giving as well. Check out the press release on PR Newswire.

Plus, I’m in the middle of recognizing the past 25 years of #SpiritofAmerica winners (on Twitter & –- 25 top companies and their employees that have stepped up to give, volunteer and make a positive impact in communities around the world –- leading up to the big reveal of the 2012 Spirit of America winner this May.

I know it's sometimes controversial, but really, corporate America isn't all "bad";there are a lot of great companies and absolutely, unbelievably great people out there who are committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR), creating shared value, and investing in the communities where the company and its employees live, work and do business.

So, what's the takeaway? No matter what you do as a company or individual, find a way to give more –- more money, more time, more donated goods, more love, more encouragement, more hope. That’s what makes the world go round.

See some of my previous posts:

-- Volunteering takes a village

-- What do you have and what can you do?

-- How to get a nonprofit job: get experience (mentions volunteering & ways to do it)



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