Two New Reasons to Volunteer

When most people think about volunteering, they think about how it helps improve lives in the community. However, two new research studies underscore the critical role volunteering plays in improving lives…of the volunteers themselves.

A recent study from the University of Iowa College of Public Health, found teenagers who participate in volunteer activities on their own may be less likely to commit crimes as adults. In fact, it showed that teenagers who volunteer had 31 percent fewer arrests and fewer convictions than those who do not volunteer, and the trend continues as they grew older.

Even those who are required to volunteer, rather than choosing to do so, have fewer arrests and convictions as adults than those who did not volunteer in their youth. Why is this?

The researchers suggest that as teens engage in self-empowering activities like volunteering, they develop a sense of moral and social responsibility that deters criminal activity.

Volunteers also gain the upper hand in the job market. According to research commissioned by Oxfam, which relies on volunteers to staff its shops, 80 percent of employers are more likely to hire an applicant with volunteer experience. It turns out bosses think volunteers have better social skills and work harder than other job applicants.

Such employability is part of the reason why effective organizations embrace a culture of philanthropy. Elliott Davis Decosimo fosters a work environment for employees to get involved in their community, whether through a financial donation or volunteer opportunity. Every office connects professional staff members to an organization they are passionate about and encourages them to hold a board seat or leadership role to build professional and community development.

“Our impact reached farther in 2016 than it ever has,” said Richard Battle (Office Managing Shareholder). “Our Charlotte and Raleigh offices volunteered nearly 5,000 hours in their communities as tutors, treasurers, financial coaches and board members. Supporting our communities through United Way’s influence has made a positive impact on our region and also to the important success and development of our people.”

The benefits described in these recent studies compliment earlier studies showing that volunteering is good for physical, mental and emotional health. Carolinas HealthCare System (CHS) has found this to be especially true among physicians battling burnout.

As part of a newly developed wellness curriculum, the Internal Medicine (IM) residency program at Carolinas HealthCare System sought to promote physician well-being and prevent burnout by exploring ways to make community volunteer work more accessible to residents and their already busy schedules.

Shortly after the launch of the curriculum, the IM residency program partnered with United Way of Central Carolinas and Salvation Army’s Center of Hope to bring volunteer opportunities directly to work. During a noon conference lunch hour, CHS residents assembled dozens of “care packs” and “hygiene packages” to be donated to the Center of Hope. Included in these were hand written notes of inspiration directed to the recipients.

“Volunteerism provides an opportunity to impact our community,” said Todd Gandy, chief resident of Internal Medicine at Carolinas HealthCare, “and is also a powerful means to promote wellness and resiliency within our industry.”

Onsite volunteer projects have been adopted by many businesses throughout Charlotte. Hands On Charlotte, the volunteer arm of United Way of Central Carolinas, partners with companies to plan and implement volunteer projects based on their needs.

To help more TIAA employees get involved in supporting local schools, United Way of Central Carolinas recently hosted a Tiny Library build on the TIAA campus. The result: 125 employees were able to help build the libraries in multiple phases throughout the day, while hundreds of others – from various locations across the community – participated in a virtual book drive to fill the libraries with 1,300 new books for nearby CMS schools.

From establishing moral and social responsibility to maintaining a healthy work life balance, volunteerism encourages a positive impact on each individual volunteer.

Published in the Charlotte Business Journal: April 2017

Volunteering for Work Experience

In the world of online webinars and how-to videos, there are many ways to learn new skills and perfect existing ones. The real trick is applying each skill in outlets that show value to future employers.

Skills-based volunteering allows an individual to enhance their resume and make valuable connections in their chosen industry or in a new industry. These experiences help to establish contacts for networking, receive letters of recommendation from professionals in the field and make a substantial contribution to overall job potential.

Here are a few reasons why giving back to the community can enhance a candidate’s professional experience:

Exposes New Career Paths

Skill-based volunteering is a great way to learn more about a specific function or industry, especially if a volunteer is considering developing a new skill, offering a personal skill outside of their career or transitioning to the government or nonprofit sector.

Develops New Skills

When switching careers or climbing the corporate ladder, skill-based volunteering presents opportunities to showcase particular skills that may be a good fit for a new role.

Cultivates a Network

Whether by attending charity events or volunteering time, charitable involvement is a great way to meet new people and expand a professional network. It can be a great way to form a real connection with someone than through a shared passion.

Ways to Get Involved

Many companies across the Charlotte region encourage employees to give back to the community through utilizing their professional skillset.

Beyond Bank of America’s financial partnership with YWCA Central Carolinas, bank employees have advanced the mission through volunteerism with LEAD for Women, the company’s employee network for women. Since 2011, this group of talented women have volunteered monthly to facilitate workshops with the women living in YWCA’s transitional housing programs. Part of this Empowerment Series includes discussions on how to manage finances, how to have healthy boundaries in relationships, and strategies for keeping peace during conflict.

Supportive Housing Communities also host a variety of skill development workshops for their residents such as:

  • Life Skills Workshops (led by Bank of America)
  • Legal Clinic (Bank of America, Merrill Lynch)
  • Computer Skills Classes (Mecklenburg Library -Main Library)

Another approach to skill-based volunteering is mentoring or tutoring. Recently, SunTrust Bank presented a financial literacy group to A Child’s Place K-2 scholars at Ashley Park. ALLY Bank employees mentor residents of Supportive Housing Communities through a Job Readiness Program, which helps individuals create a resume and prepare for a job interview.

However, skill-based volunteering is not just for active professionals. Retirees, who may not be ready to hang their hat after a full career, can volunteer with eager nonprofits in areas such as finance, marketing, consulting, administrative duties and fundraising.

To exercise your expertise, email Doug Macomb at

Published in the Charlotte Business Journal: April 2017