April is National Volunteer Month, and there will be many opportunities throughout our communities to participate in service in the coming weeks. Volunteer Iowa wants to encourage Iowans — and the organizations that employ Iowans — with a special challenge.
In Iowa, about one-third of residents volunteer formally with a nonprofit and about 70 percent either formally or informally like regularly helping a neighbor. Over 7,000 are National Service members, many of whom are committing a year of their lives to full-time community service. But we want to boost these numbers even higher and see every Iowan empowered through service to meet community challenges and make lives better. On trend nationally, one of the most exciting ways we’re looking to grow volunteerism in Iowa is to cultivate employer-supported volunteer programs and opportunities.
We know that people are more likely to volunteer when they are asked. We know that it’s most effective to meet people where they already are to make that request and that people on average spend the most time at work. But volunteering not only has a significant impact on meeting community needs, it also has an impact on business’ bottom line. From a business perspective, employer supported volunteering leads to improved employee engagement, organizational commitment, job satisfaction and retention. Those are outcomes an employer should pay attention to. The Volunteer IMPACT Survey published by Deloitte shows that “78 percent of employees would rather work for an ethical and reputable company than receive a higher salary, so companies have a vested interest in building a corporate volunteerism program that works”.
At the heart of the mission of Volunteer Iowa is a commitment to service and enabling all Iowans who want to serve resources to find those volunteer opportunities. As part of this mission, the Give Back Iowa Challenge was created in 2015 to encourage employers to support volunteering, both during and outside of the workday. The 8-week competition kicked off on April 1 and ends May 31. Employees log their volunteer hours during the challenge, companies with the highest average of volunteer hours per employee will be recognized. There are over 50 companies currently registered, and that number is growing. Employers continue to recognize the need to support volunteerism in our communities.
The Give Back Iowa Challenge is a fun competition, but the value of volunteer efforts for employees and employers is real. Consider what you can do to support your community and give back of your time and talents this April. Join us and build a stronger state together.
• Adam Lounsbury is executive director of Volunteer Iowa.