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Volunteering: Good for Business, Good for the Soul

We all know we should be doing more of it—heading down to the local soup kitchen to ladle some cream of potato or signing up for a Habitat for Humanity build to put our hammering skills to good use. Sure, volunteering is great for society, but besides leaving us with that warm and fuzzy feeling, what are the benefits?

According to a recent study published by the large accounting firm Deloitte, many workers ages 21-35 (or “millennials”) are willingly volunteering their time. The millennials who volunteer are overall more likely to be: optimistic about their work environment, proud to work for their employer, satisfied with their career progression and more likely to recommend their company to a friend when compared to workers who volunteer very little or not at all.

If you’re picturing CPAs wearing aprons and hairnets at the soup kitchen, it’s time to rethink your definition of the word “volunteering.”

When Deloitte mentions volunteering, the firm isn’t referring to social services like soup kitchens, homeless shelters and house building projects. Deloitte encourages its employees to get involved in “skills-based volunteering,” essentially pro bono work aimed at utilizing an individual’s special skill set.

Skills-based volunteering gives workers an opportunity to test their skills in a setting outside of their job by assuming leadership roles and challenging themselves in new and interesting ways. Deloitte’s data suggest a link between volunteerism and employee engagement, implying that employees who find creative outlets and unique opportunities through volunteering are more satisfied with and engaged in their corporate lives. What could possibly be better, you ask? Add something you love to the mix.

Toby Sachs, Group Managing Director of mcgarrybowen, volunteers for a program called Business Volunteers for the Arts (BVA) through the Arts & Business Council of Chicago. BVA is a national program operated by a network of organizations around the country under the leadership and coordination of Americans for the Arts, which recruits, trains and assigns experienced business professionals to work on pro bono consulting projects with nonprofit arts organizations in several cities all over America.

Toby Sachs has donated his business skills to many arts organizations in Chicago, working on projects like Chicago’s International Film Festival and an e-marketing campaign for Lookingglass Theatre. Volunteers for BVA, made up of talented experts like Sachs, make a huge difference in their communities by a creating a more sustainable environment for the arts.

Sachs firmly believes in the benefits of being a Business Volunteer for the Arts because volunteering “gives people a chance to practice their craft in a different field, or to play a different role on the team than they do at the office. Applying your marketing training to the arts often forces you back to consider and explain the underlying principles, which is a great discipline. You can’t get away with too much marketing jargon and are forced to think and express yourself clearly.”

To stay interested and motivated while doing volunteer work, pick an organization whose goals and interest align with yours. If you’re passionate about the arts, find out what arts agencies are near you and how you can use your business know-how to help out. Better yet, if you’re a business leader, call your local arts agencies right now to work on setting up a partnership with your company.

Offer days off of work for your employees to volunteer, or set up a pro bono program to help arts satisfy their business needs. Create a program that will be mutually beneficial to your business and to the local arts community. Volunteering for the arts will be sure to pay off twofold, creating a positive and productive workforce while giving you that warm, feel-good tingling inside.

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