By Janet Stocks (New York City)

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In The Social Case for Corporate Volunteering, Kenn Allen explains that “The idea of corporate volunteering as a definable phenomenon emerged in the United States in the late 1970s. Over the past 25 years, it has spread slowly but surely throughout the world, practiced both by multinational corporations and small businesses. The business case or rationale for this work is well established and widely accepted.”

In recent years, corporations have realized the importance of such programs for energizing and engaging their employees – and responded by initiating corporate volunteer programs and improving pre-existing programs. Not only do corporate volunteer programs benefit the local community, they also serve to boost employee morale and increase business, according to a recent study by Volunteering England.

Here’s what industry leaders such as Viacom, Timberland, Best Buy, and UPS have done to engage their employees through corporate volunteering:


According to Viacom’s Corporate Responsibility site, “Viacom’s social commitment leverages the power of its brand and the strength of its audience relationship to encourage action on a variety of pro-social issues that are important to our partners, employees, audience, shareholders, and communities alike.” Their areas of focus include education, employee involvement, green initiatives, and HIV/AIDS.

Viacom’s ViaCommunity Day, established in 1995, is the company’s annual day of service in which “highlights our long-term commitment to support the communities that support us every day.” The 2009 ViaCommunity Day boasted 3,000 participants in 30 cities worldwide, making it “the largest, farthest reaching, most successful ViaCommunity Day ever.”


“At Timberland, our mission is to equip people to make their difference in the world.”

Timberland engages its employees through paid time to serve their communities, service sabbaticals, and its annual day of service, Serv-a-palooza.

Best Buy

According to Best Buy’s 2009 Corporate Responsibility Report, “Employee engagement is a core value and priority for Best Buy. We will continue to invest in our employees and encourage their participation in the development of our business.”

Best Buy matches its employees’ volunteer hours monetarily. For example, “In fiscal 2009, 34 percent of our U.S. employees volunteered for a total of more than 165,000 hours and as a result, we contributed almost $4 million in Best Buy Children’s Foundation funds to local nonprofit organizations.”

Additionally, Best Buy began the BlueShirt Corps to encourage its tech savvy employees’ to use their talents for good. According to the CR report, “BlueShirt Corps is a group of passionate and highly engaged employee teams that have agreed to be “on call” for the Red Cross. When a disaster strikes, BlueShirt Corps employees are flown in to the area and help set up the Red Cross’s communications so the Red Cross can focus on what they do best—help people in crisis.”


As the 2009 recipient of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Community Service Award, UPS is clearly dedicated to engaging its employees through community service. Since 1993, UPS has engaged its employees through its Neighbor to Neighbor program. Neighbor to Neighbor “provides UPS employees and their families hands-on volunteer opportunities where they live and work and is part of an ongoing company-wide effort to heighten awareness for community needs and promote the importance of volunteerism.”

In addition to the 1.2 million hours that volunteers contributed to Neighbor to Neighbor in 2008, UPS employees also take part in the company’s Global Volunteer Month. According to the company, “The UPS Global Volunteer Month is an extension of UPS’s long-standing commitment to volunteerism and is the year’s culminating event for employee volunteers. For the past six years, thousands of UPS employees in more than 50 countries have helped paint schools, assist food banks, renovate shelters and complete many other tasks in their communities.” In 2010, UPS will continue to find innovative ways to engage its employees through volunteerism in the United States and abroad.

As evidenced in this article, there are many ways to engage employees in corporate volunteering. From paid volunteer time to a company-wide day of service, corporations are actively working to serve the nation’s communities. How will you promote volunteerism in your company?