Job Satisfaction & Corporate Community Service Projects

One of the more intriguing conversations about work/life balance is the unlikely relationship between community service and job satisfaction. Employees have few idle minutes these days, so it would seem intuitive that they'd resist adding more commitments to their already overflowing dance cards. Yet research shows that just the opposite is true. Pitching in to help the community -- even when that means cutting back on free time seems to improve overall satisfaction with life and employment.

Karin Weaver knows this all too well. As Director of Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives for the organization, she's seen the energizing effects of volunteerism on employees who step up for the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children. Weaver says the Foundation relies on that kind of discretionary effort to create the signature children's places (Bright Spaces) at homeless shelters and other community organizations across the country. Knowing the depth of Bright Horizons' employees' professional commitments, she often marvels at their willingness to volunteer outside of their work hours. "We never have a shortage of people who want to use their talents and knowledge to help vulnerable children and youth," she says.

Corporate Community Service Projects: Benefiting the Community and the Workforce

According to the 2013 Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Survey, released in late July, the community-service/ happiness equation has benefits for employers as well. Supporting volunteer projects raises the warm feelings about a company both inside the workforce and outside in the marketplace. But there are more benefits than merely good will. Philanthropic projects hone in people the kind of organization and tenacity skills that employers value. And spearheading such a project requires leadership, fundraising, and of course physical hard work -- all on the checklist of attributes employers want to see in their people.

Weaver calls a recent undertaking in California a perfect example of the kind professional-skill-building projects that benefit everyone. The project, for the RAIN Transitional Living Center in Camarillo, California, was somewhat extraordinary in its scope. The goal was to create Bright Spaces that would serve all of the young homeless residents of the shelter. But since half of RAIN's residents are children and youth under the age of 18, serving them all would take not one but three separate Bright Spaces. Volunteers put together a unique public/private partnership between the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children, the biotech company Amgen's corporate foundation, and First 5 Ventura County of California, a nonprofit organization that partners with parents, school districts, community leaders, and social and healthcare agencies, to support a network of essential services that provide education, health, and child care services to young children and their families. Regional Manager Tammy Reich and Camp Amgen Center Director Sara Hannah worked closely with RAIN to design the spaces to meet the needs of the children there. They also secured financing through fundraising and generous grants from the Amgen Foundation and First 5 Ventura County, and organized Bright Horizons volunteers to physically create the spaces.

When the day came to get started, employees arrived, with families in tow, using their weekends to engage in demolition and construction, and then the organization and set up of each space. The result was a trio of separate Bright Spaces to support RAIN's three youth populations: a room for young children with interactive play spaces, a tween room focusing on science and science activities, and the teen room with activities geared toward learning, self-expression, and creativity.

Leaders from all three organizations lauded the efforts. "We want these kids that come in here to have a chance, so at least in this short time that they are here they have a real opportunity to experience something special," said Tina McDonald, RAIN's program manager, expressing appreciation to the Amgen Foundation, First 5 Ventura County, and the Foundation.

"They will provide enriching environments filled with activities and resources to allow children, teens, and 'tweens to create, dream, explore and discover their own interests." "Bright Spaces bring hope and comfort to families and children during an especially difficult time in their lives," said Jessica Halloran, Philanthropy Manager at Amgen. "The Amgen Foundation is excited to have been part of creating inviting spaces designed specifically for the young residents of RAIN, which also incorporate science learning elements."

Bringing the project to fruition, says Weaver, required the kind of thorough, start-to-finish management valued in any corporate project leader. Certainly, the community benefitted. And, as in all projects of this sort, the people who donated their time benefitted as well. "It's a lot of time and effort, but nobody ever complains," says Weaver. "The volunteers seem to get as much out of it as the organizations where they volunteer."