Firms say paying workers to volunteer boosts morale, businessGlobe University campus director Stephanie Cline normally spends her lunch hour in her office with students.
By: By Jessica Larsen, La Crosse Tribune, Wis., Superior Telegram
Globe University campus director Stephanie Cline normally spends her lunch hour in her office with students.
But one day late last month, she was pulling carrots and green beans off the shelves of the WAFER food pantry for the needy.
Globe University is one of several area businesses that pays its employees to do volunteer work in the community.
The companies say it's well worth it. Volunteering boosts a business' visibility, helps its employees network and -- most importantly -- gives back to a community that supports the company.
Americans in general are volunteering more than ever, with 64 million giving time to an organization last year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That's a half-percent increase from the year before.
"It's part of our culture," said Abe Leis, the lead partner at consulting firm Hawkins, Ash, Baptie & Co., which encourages its workers to volunteer. "The staff likes to get out and be involved. ... A lot of employees are passionate about certain organizations. They don't pick it because they have to, they do it because they want to."
Hawkins, Ash, Baptie & Co., which has six locations, including in La Crosse and Winona, began its focus on community service in the 1950s when the company was created. The founding partners held community involvement as a priority, Leis said. Officials kept it going by offering volunteer opportunities.
The 120 employees have no limit on the number of hours or the organization they volunteer for during the work day. The company pays half-time for volunteer work over the lunch hour or after 5 p.m.
The firm paid out 4,200 hours of volunteer time to its staff last year, which is about normal, said Heather Ladwig, its human resources director. There's an 80 percent participation rate among employees.
The United Way, the YMCA and Habitat for Humanity are a few of the most popular organizations for the firm's employees.
Globe University staff has been involved with organizations such as the Hmong Cultural Center, Freedom Honor Flight and Children's Miracle Network since the Onalaska campus opened in June 2010.
The university sets up volunteer projects during the work day at least quarterly. Up to a dozen usually attend. Often, they bring along students as well, said Brady Lowe, Globe University spokesman.
Each May, a larger volunteering event is held as well.
It's an opportunity to connect with people and organizations, Lowe said. It builds relationships with nonprofit organizations, which can lead to future projects.
"We want to lead by example, and you do that when volunteering," Lowe said. "Staff and students volunteer side by side. It creates a global student, and they understand they have huge impact on the community."
Locknet IT Solutions in La Crosse started its employee volunteer program this year. It's part of a new strategic plan to attract high-quality workers and improve the corporate atmosphere for its current employees, company leaders said.
Employees get two work days, or 16 hours, each year to volunteer at the nonprofit organization of their choice. No one has clocked the hours yet, but several of the two dozen workers are excited about it, said company marketing manager Nikki Leach.
"It's a significant cost and commitment," company president and COO Peter Kujawa said. "But we think it's better for our employees."
It gives employees a chance to work inside their children's school, for example, or support a cause they believe in.
"It shows we invest in the community," Kujawa said. "We don't just work here. We live here and volunteer here as well."
(c)2012 the La Crosse Tribune (La Crosse, Wis.)
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