An engaged workforce is vitally important in the Charlotte community. When a Harvard University/UC Berkeley study revealed Charlotte-Mecklenburg ranks 50th out of 50 among the largest U.S. cities in economic mobility, the community rallied for a solution. Companies have found ways to step up and use their collective impact to create positive change.
“Our community is made up of caring people who want to be involved,” said Sean Garrett, executive director of United Way of Central Carolinas. “What’s exciting about our work is we are providing avenues for everybody to take control of the future of our community.”
Some of the avenues companies have taken include investing resources into community initiatives, empowering employees to join engagement groups and providing professional development so that employees are prepared to take leadership roles in local nonprofits.There’s also been a recent push to use technology to help redefine the future of philanthropy in the workplace.
In February 2018, Salesforce.org announced a partnership with United Way to launch Philanthropy Cloud, the first-of-its-kind network platform with the goal of transforming the way corporations connect with employees to engage and support the causes they care about.
“Salesforce.org and United Way are working together to redefine philanthropy by making it easy for employees to not just donate, but to amplify, track and measure impact at an individual profile and collective level,” said Rob Acker, CEO Salesforce.org. “Philanthropy Cloud is the perfect combination of innovation and social impact, enabling any company to make giving back a core part of their culture.”
Here are three ways companies in Charlotte are making volunteering and engaging in the community simple, effective and fun for their employees.
A CULTURE OF GIVING BACK
Many companies provide opportunities for fundraising and community service, but some go as far as giving employees the opportunity to volunteer during the workday. The Tutor Charlotte program, launched by United Way and Read Charlotte, wouldn’t be possible without employees from local companies volunteering their time to serve as reading mentors for local students.
Recent studies have shown only 39 percent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s third graders are reading at grade level, a critical predictor of future success. Companies like Bank of America, Duke Energy, Atrium Health and Ingersoll Rand have adopted classrooms and provide volunteers, who work one-on-one with students for 30 minutes each week to help them learn critical reading skills through “active reading.”
“Active reading is an evidence-based approach that improves children’s language skills, vocabulary and ability to understand what they are reading,” said Tori Kendrick, senior manager of Tutor Charlotte. “These volunteers are helping us make sure students are reading at grade level by third grade.”
EDUCATED AND ENGAGED EMPLOYEES
Sometimes people want to make an impact, but are not sure where to start. Joining a group focused on learning about the needs of the community and rallying to make a difference, is a great entry point. Companies including Wells Fargo, Atrium Health, Duke Energy, BB&T and EY are empowering their employees to make a difference by joining engagement groups.
United Way has four engagement groups, each with a focus on improving economic mobility in Charlotte by working towards a key impact area including early childhood education and neighborhood revitalization.
The Young Leaders group focuses on positive change in the west corridor of Charlotte. The group recently volunteered with Seeds for Change, a West Boulevard Community Initiative focused on creating a fully-integrated food hub in West Charlotte.
“Part of what I enjoy about Young Leaders is the exposure to different causes and opportunities to get involved,” said Stephen Henry, Young Leaders co-chair. “I learned Seeds of Change has a long-term goal to build a co-op grocery store in West Charlotte, and I helped tend to a garden the group created at West Boulevard Library.”
FOSTERING FUTURE LEADERS
Companies like Enterprise Holdings are helping to foster future leaders in our community by not only encouraging employees to volunteer, but also providing leadership and educational opportunities. Enterprise Holdings recently brought together employees to assemble snack packs at Salvation Army’s Center of Hope. The group was broken into teams, with a contest and prizes for the most productive volunteers. They set a goal on the overall number of packs to put together for the women and children there.
“We’re super competitive. It’s just part of our culture, we strive to be the best at everything we do” said Kaniche Bennett, NC Group Generalist Manager for Enterprise Holdings in Charlotte. “It’s one thing to help those in need, and that’s the first reason we get involved. But when there’s also a personal benefit in terms of leadership and educational opportunities that really helps Enterprise develop our staff. I’m so proud to see them getting entrenched in the community.”
TIAA and Wells Fargo are among the companies working to train future nonprofit leaders by providing board training sessions. These interactive sessions prepare young professionals to be part of a nonprofit agency board. The civic-minded nature of nonprofit leadership makes it crucial for those in governance positions – particularly those in volunteer board positions – to understand their roles in advancing the mission of the nonprofits they serve. Using case studies, hands-on problem solving and hearing from subject matter experts, these sessions give participants the skills they need to become effective board members.
For today’s workforce, simply showing up is not good enough. Employers are recognizing that more and more people want to be engaged not only at work, but also in the world around them. Companies who rally their employees to volunteer will reap the benefits of a loyal workforce, higher productivity and a better community for all.
This article was published in April’s edition of the Charlotte Business Journal which showcases companies throughout the Charlotte region making true impact by engaging employees in corporate volunteerism.