A growing number of corporate citizenship professionals report that their company’s community involvement activities contribute to enhanced business reputations, aid in the recruitment and retention of employees and help in other aspects of business operations—further making the case that community investments are good for the bottom line.

As reported in the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s 2015 Community Involvement Study, roughly 85 percent of companies surveyed said that community involvement helps enhance their firms’ reputations. Companies also report that community involvement contributes to achieving business goals that are important to their industry’s operating context. For example, more than half of food companies indicate that community involvement contributes to securing a sustainable supply chain, and half of energy companies surveyed report that community involvement helps improve risk management, the report said.

Perhaps most significantly, employee volunteer programs seem to have a positive impact on employee engagement, recruitment and retention, the survey showed.

Among the companies that measure the connection between volunteering and employee engagement, 89 percent found a positive correlation between participation and higher engagement scores, the BCCCC said. In fact, more than 90 percent of companies include improved employee engagement among the top three benefits of their employee volunteer programs. Per the report, this higher level of engagement and job satisfaction is partly attributable to an improved view of the company and its values, as perceived by employees.

And about 80 percent said employee volunteerism helped establish a positive corporate brand within their operating communities.

According to the survey, businesses report that employee volunteer programs also provide opportunities for networking, skills development and leadership training that result in employees feeling more connected to their companies—further increasing loyalty, engagement and retention.

With these positive correlations in mind, it’s no surprise that employee volunteer programs are popular—more than 80 percent of companies offer them, and they take a variety of steps to encourage their workers to participate, including:

  • Disseminating information about volunteer programs in orientation or onboarding of new employees.
  • Using volunteer activities as team-building exercises for managers.
  • Including write-ups of volunteer programs/activities in employee newsletters.
  • Organizing volunteer activities as social outings for employees.
  • Highlighting employee volunteer programs during recruiting efforts.

Approximately 60 percent of companies recognize exemplary employee volunteers in some manner, the report showed, and such recognition has an impact on employee volunteerism. Recognition may be externally in local and/or national news, internally through awards or a combination of both. Companies that recognize employees both internally and externally report an average employee participation rate of 39 percent, compared to 32 percent for companies that do not offer recognition, according to the survey data.

The connection between community involvement and key business goals is consistent with the results of a prior BCCCC study from 2014, which found that the majority of business executives report that the environmental, social and governance dimensions of business contribute to enhanced reputation and the recruitment and retention of employees.

Beyond volunteerism, companies are engaging their workers in community involvement efforts through workplace giving programs as well, the report showed.

More than 80 percent of companies offer workplace giving programs—most commonly, campaigns allowing for payroll deductions of contributions to selected charities, followed by disaster relief programs that enable quick and effortless contributions in the event of natural disasters.

And while such programs in the past were often limited to full-time employees, some 70 percent now offer these programs to part-time workers, and nearly a quarter allow retirees to participate as well, the report showed.

According to Katherine Smith, executive director of the BCCCC, the study confirms the business benefits of community involvement throughout the corporate landscape.

“Effective corporate citizenship programs achieve two goals—they deliver business as well as social value,” said Smith in announcing the report.

“Our study finds that today’s corporate citizenship professionals are keeping those objectives in mind when planning their community involvement efforts, and the majority are reporting that their initiatives are contributing to crucial business goals,” she said.

To access the report in full, go to http://ccc.bc.edu.