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Why volunteer work is good for businesses
Some companies are finding ways to incorporate volunteerism into their workplace, including offering volunteer time as a benefit. Here's how they are helping their own business, their employees and their communities. - photo by Sam Turner
Traditional resumes are often divided into subheads including "work experience" and "volunteer experience." In some cases the categories of paid work and unpaid work are overlapping.

More companies are finding ways to integrate volunteering into the workplace. According to Entrepreneur, some companies have included paid time off for volunteer projects as part of their benefits package.

Some companies have large, organized volunteer programs, such as Arkansas-based customer information management company Acxiom, or California-based PR firm WunderMarx, which donates at least 10 percent of its staff's working hours to nonprofit organizations and social causes.

Volunteer initiatives can also be simple, like that of outdoor gear company Osprey Packs, which gives its employees one day per year to volunteer with a charity of their choice.

"Companies both large and small are interested in being good corporate citizens," community involvement manager Corinn Price told Entrepreneur. "Not only does the company benefit, so does the employee and the community."

Companies benefit from volunteering

Workplace-volunteering integration can help businesses stand out in their community and hire and retain outstanding employees.

According to the 2013 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey, 88 percent of HR executives believe volunteerism has a positive outcome on their company's reputation.

Potential employees are interested in working for companies that emphasize community engagement, especially young people. According to the Huffington Post, PriceWaterhouseCooper found 88 percent of millennials gravitated toward companies with Corporate Social Responsibility programs. If their employer's CSR was compromised, 86 percent of millennials said they would consider leaving the company.

The bottom line is workers are interested in volunteer work. According to the U.S. Labor Department, 62.6 million Americans volunteered in some capacity last year. Businesses can have a greater impact in their communities and keep their employees engaged by incorporating volunteerism in the workplace.

Employees improve

Fortune published new research by Great Place to Work that suggests companies are better off volunteering their employees' time than they are just giving a lump sum donation to charitable causes.

When employees are actively involved in giving back it can lead to a deeper commitment and connection to the work, Great Place to Work consultant Elizabeth Stocker told Fortune. It doesnt surprise me that the sentiment was much higher when people are actually involved in the work, rather than a corporate donation being made.

Not only do employees feel more engaged with their company and their community, but they may also develop valuable skills through volunteer experiences.

According to the 2011 Deloitte survey, 91 percent of Fortune 500 HR managers said volunteering is "an effective way to cultivate critical business and leadership skills, such as project management, communication, goal-setting and evaluation."

These skills can also help employees later in their careers. According to Deloitte, 76 percent of HR executives said skilled volunteering makes a job candidate more desirable.

Communities flourish

Arguably, the most important reason for volunteer initiatives is to help those in need and build a better community. Businesses often have the means to effect real change.

WunderMarx co-founder Cara Good told Entrepreneur its employees want to work for companies who "put their money where their mouth is."

According to Acxiom's community outreach leader, Kelley Bass, corporations can make a big difference by volunteering their services.

"The programs offer proof to our employees that our company cares about more than making a profit," Bass told Entrepreneur. "They give our employees outlets to make a difference and to gain satisfaction outside the work they do on our clients' behalf."