This is National Volunteer Week (Apr. 27 – May 3), an annual celebration established by presidential executive order in 1974 that recognizes volunteers and the contributions they make to our communities. This year’s theme: “Volunteer to Change the World.”
In keeping with that focus, I introduced legislation Monday to make it easier for federal employees to do community service, particularly service that requires travel such as helping with disaster relief in places like New Orleans and the Mississippi Delta.
It’s a concept that innovators in the private sector are already on to, providing paid time to allow for community service. The bill would let civil servants use two sick days per year for qualified community service. Qualified community service means work for organizations that participate in the Combined Federal Campaign, the world’s largest and most successful annual workplace charity campaign, or organizations ok’d by the Office of Personnel Management.
Studies have shown that volunteerism boosts morale, productivity and personal health. Volunteering also teaches communication and leadership skills that result in better-trained workers.
Nationwide, one-third of large U.S. companies have formal time-off policies in support of employee volunteer involvement, according to the Business for Social Responsibility. Over 40 percent of small businesses also offer a similar benefit.
Examples of private companies offering employee leave to perform community service include: CDW, Wegmans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, Toro Company, Xcel Energy and Wells Fargo. Wegmans and CDW have been rated by Fortune Magazine as two of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.”
This legislation is about providing our civil service with a benefit on par with what these top firms use to make their workplaces some of the most desirable in the U.S. It’s a recruitment and retention tool, but also a way to develop a happier, healthier and more highly skilled workforce.
It’s a win for the government because happier workers mean better workers. It’s a win for our civil servants because volunteerism brings both emotional and career development benefits. And it’s a win for our society at-large, as we help lift up people in need through community service.