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We’ve heard the old adage “doing well, by doing good.” In our increasingly competitive business culture, it’s still refreshing to see companies offering volunteer opportunities for their employees to give back in the communities where they work and live.

PadillaCRT is just such a company.

“PadillaCRT employee-owners in offices from the West Coast to the Eastern Seaboard dedicate personal volunteer time and professional pro bono hours to help others in their communities. I am grateful to every one of them for their willingness to go above and beyond,” said Lynn Casey, PadillaCRT CEO, in the agency’s “2014 Report to the Community.”

cfkc_RVA-sale-photosJust one example of the myriad charitable organizations that PadillaCRT supports through volunteerism is Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. As part of the annual Community Service Day program, employees in our Richmond, Va. office will be volunteering for this worthy organization by selling fresh-baked cookies on Thursday, September 10 and Friday, September 11 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the James Center in downtown Richmond.

Our connection with this organization began in 2007, when the young son of a former staffer – Gretchen Witt – was diagnosed with cancer. Gretchen and her husband Larry wanted to do something about the disparity in funding between adult and pediatric cancer research. They founded Cookies for Kids’ Cancer.

To support the cause, the agency’s Richmond employees and many former colleagues organized the organization’s first citywide bake sale. Today, our volunteers remain just as passionate about this annual event, eagerly raising money for more research trials – and more treatments. The effort continues to grow as more volunteers and organizations have gotten involved.

In 2014, the Richmond Cookies for Kids’ Cancer team organized more than 35 bake sales, selling delicious organic cookies across the city, raising approximately $60,000 in two days.

With support from similar groups, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer has grown into a global initiative for hope. Bake sales, now held in all 50 states and in 16 countries, have funded numerous grants for childhood cancer research, producing several new treatments available to children today.

Other recent examples of PadillaCRT volunteer efforts include:

  • Minneapolis employees volunteering their time and talents to work with more than 50 local nonprofits in 2014.
  • Employees in our Washington, D.C. office getting “down and dirty” to beautify the National Arboretum, this past September.
  • Los Angeles employees volunteering at the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards, also this past September.
  • New York employees volunteering at the New York Common Pantry – New York’s largest community pantry – for Halloween.
  • Employees in Norfolk, Va. sharing the holiday spirit in December by volunteering at the Salvation Army Hampton Roads Command.

How can companies start and maintain their own employee volunteer programs?  Here are four suggestions to get started:

Create a Culture of Giving. If employees understand that volunteerism is truly supported by the organization, they will be more inclined to participate in such opportunities. And these efforts can begin with individuals even before they become employees.

“Every communications, promotional material and website targeted toward recruitment should include key messages about your corporate values, community relations efforts and most importantly your commitment to supporting volunteerism,” according to Gary Levante, community engagement officer at Bershire Bank.

Empower Employee/Volunteer Leadership. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates about 25 percent of employees are already volunteering. Companies can harness the enthusiasm of these employees to help coordinate volunteer programs.

“They already have causes they care about, and they are already intrinsically motivated to give back to their communities. These people, the ones who are educated and enthusiastic about volunteering, are your influencers. Find them – and then meet them at their highest level of contribution,” according to Realized Worth, which works with companies to motivate employees to participate in volunteering and giving programs.

“Some will be ready to lead an entire team. Others will want to be called upon for specific activities. Some will only be ready for a minimal level of participation. Not all volunteers are the same, but most programs make the mistake of treating them like they are.”

Offer Recognition and Rewards. While employees usually volunteer because they want to give back to the community, it’s also nice for companies to recognize volunteer efforts. In October, PadillaCRT will recognize our Living Our Purpose Award recipients. Along with honoring employees for client service and contributions made to enhancing the agency, we also will recognize an employee who has made a significant contribution through volunteerism.

Measure Success. Like any company program, the success of an employee volunteer program should be measured. Ryan Scott, writing for Forbes, says that companies should analyze the community impact of volunteer programs from the perspective of the charitable organization being helped, the company and the employees. He suggests the following questions as some that can be asked when evaluating the success of volunteer programs:

  • How helpful was your involvement for the nonprofit?
  • Did your company benefit from the experience?
  • Did your employees learn anything from their service?

“Questionnaires, journals and interviews can help you collect the answers to these questions. Analyzing your involvement will help you improve the effectiveness of future employee volunteer programs,” Scott writes.

What other suggestions do you have for employee volunteer programs?

If you happen to be in downtown Richmond on Thursday or Friday, stop by the James Center and be a “Good Cookie” and support Cookies for Kids’ Cancer Richmond City-Wide Bake Sale.