April 23-29, 2017 is National Volunteer Week, and in my community it’s also EP Gives Week. Both are designations meant to promote and show appreciation for volunteers and their tremendous impact on our quality of life.
It’s pretty hard to argue against the concept of volunteering. After all, it makes your community and the world better. The difficult part is carving out the personal time to make it happen.
So, let me offer a few points that may push you toward a new or expanded role as a volunteer or, if you’re a CEO, convince you to launch an employee volunteer program.
First, on the individual side, studies show that volunteering can help lower depression and stress, provide a higher sense of purpose, and help keep us mentally and physically active as we age. Like sleep, vegetables, and a healthy savings account, it’s good for you!
In the bigger picture, volunteering helps our communities by reducing the tax dollars that need to be spent on social services. It’s hard to put a dollar value on volunteer time because of the intangibles. But Bureau of Labor statistics indexed by an organization called Independent Sector show that an hour of volunteer time in Minnesota is worth $25.20 and is on the increase.
Minnesota has an amazing volunteer rate of 35.4 percent, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service – second highest in the nation – and so 1.56 million volunteers giving 33 hours per capita means an annual dollar impact of $3.3 billion in this state.
But companies also benefit when their employees volunteer, because research indicates it reduces employee turnover and increases worker camaraderie.
The America’s Charities group made the claim last year that having an employee volunteer program could potentially save money for your business. It cited a 2013 study by UnitedHealth Group that said “64 percent of employees who currently volunteer said that volunteering with work colleagues strengthened their relationships.”
I call that the “pulling together” benefit of volunteering.
In my own community of Eden Prairie, there’s an event approaching that will help match people interested in volunteering with a wide range of volunteer opportunities. It’s called The GIVE Gathering – GIVE stands for Gather to Inspire Volunteer Engagement – and it’s being held 6-8 p.m. Thursday, April 27, at the Eden Prairie Education Center, 8040 Mitchell Road.
About 20 local nonprofits and civic organizations will have volunteer opportunities on display, and many will provide service-learning activities on the spot. There’ll be a food truck, and drawings for restaurant gift cards and other prizes. Meanwhile, in an adjacent classroom, author and volunteer-engagement expert Jill Fox will provide nonprofit and club leaders with “best practices” for recruiting and retaining new volunteers or club members.
The event is free. For more information, go to https://www.edenpr.org/givegathering.
Find a way to volunteer in your own community. You’ll be helping others, yourself, and in some cases your company.