By Melissa J. Anderson

Recently, UnitedHealthcare and VolunteerMatch, a national nonprofit that helps connect people with volunteering opportunities, announced the results of a survey on health, well-being, and volunteering behaviors of Americans. The study provided some firm numbers to support what many have suspected all along: corporate volunteering programs build employee engagement.

According to the survey, 69% of Americans have volunteered or given money to charity. And in the past year, and 41% participated in volunteer activities, with just over half volunteering on a regular basis. And a slightly higher percentage of Americans (44%) plans to volunteer this year.

The survey also revealed that 25% of American volunteers do so through their employer, and that the number would be higher if employers would helped with the means and motivation to participate in volunteering activities. In fact, the report shows, “Those who volunteer through their job report more positive attitudes towards their employer as well as colleagues.”

Volunteering and Employee Engagement

The study shows the impact volunteering programs can have on employees in the workplace, with benefits like fostering teamwork and encouraging workplace loyalty.

  • 81% of people who volunteer with work say that “volunteering with work colleagues has strengthened our relationships.”
  • 76% say they “feel better about my employer because of their involvement in my volunteer activities.”
  • 21% say “I would not be a volunteer if it wasn’t for my employer.”
  • These numbers show the importance of corporate volunteering programs for building employee engagement. And besides the engagement factor, the study showed some good reasons companies may look to hire volunteers.

    Indeed, volunteering through work may make people healthier and happier. According to the survey, people who volunteered through work gave higher ratings of their physical and emotional health. And 88% of volunteers reported that they recognize the potential career development benefits to being a volunteer.

    Volunteering at UnitedHealthcare

    “More and more evidence suggests volunteering and community service can be a powerful force for improving both our communities and our own well-being. Serving others can give greater meaning to life, stimulate and motivate healthy behaviors, and decrease stress and tension,” said Tom Paul, chief operating officer of UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare business.

    He continued, “Last year, 73 percent of UnitedHealthcare’s employees volunteered in the communities where we live and work.” According to the company’s website, volunteering is also a good strategy for business, enabling the company to better reach out to its customers:

    “By contributing time and money to nonprofit organizations, we support programs that promote healthy communities. As we work together to help those around us live healthier lives, we too become stronger as a company. We become more familiar with the communities in which our customers live, and better understand how to serve them.”

    The survey was performed as part of UnitedHealthcare’s “Do Good Live Well” campaign, which encourages people to volunteer. Conducted by TNS, the survey was performed between February 25 and March 8, 2010, and the data have been weighted to reflect the demographic and regional composition of the U.S. adult online population. The approximate margin of error estimate for the full survey sample is plus or minus 1.4%.