Corporate Volunteering: A Top Tool for Employee Retention

Commentary by Karen Leies, Vice President of Development at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey

A successful business operates with an understanding that people are its most vital asset–and its most transitory. Quality employees can walk out the door without hesitation as they find new jobs that are better suited to their values and lifestyles. This turnover is bad for team morale and expensive for businesses, with many studies showing that the cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to twice the employee’s annual salary. As the economy heats up, the workforce changes, and evolving technology makes it easier for people to find new opportunities, employee retention is arguably the biggest talent challenge that businesses face today. It is more important now than ever before to give people a reason to stay with your company.

Research shows that involving employees in social causes is an effective way for a company to align with its employees’ values, thereby differentiating itself from competitors and boosting retention at the same time. This is especially true for millennial employees, who tend to change jobs more frequently than employees from other age groups and who want to work for employers that support the issues they care about, but it can be applied to people of all ages and backgrounds.

At the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, we welcome corporate volunteer groups on a regular basis, and I’ve seen the positive impact firsthand. When companies bring their employees here to volunteer, everybody wins. Businesses gain a cost-effective way of keeping employees happy, employees feel more fulfillment and loyalty towards their company, and we reap the invaluable benefits of volunteers’ impact on hunger. Last year alone, our volunteers dedicated more than 105,000 hours to helping us fight hunger in New Jersey, with corporate groups making up about 30% of our total volunteers.

Take your efforts to build job satisfaction a step further by ensuring that your company’s social responsibility program is fully optimized. Quartz at Work contributor Kathleen Kelly Janus recommends providing group volunteer opportunities and creating competition as ways to take corporate volunteering to the next level. Here at the FoodBank, we can help! Our meeting rooms are available to volunteer groups, so your employees can build camaraderie and have lunch together before or after their shift. We also show a video overview to give volunteers a full understanding of the impact that their service has for hungry families. Employees from different departments and seniority levels will work together to assemble Family Packs and Senior Boxes, to sort and repack food, or to prepare Kids Cafe meals, just to name a few possible activities. On their way out, employees can take fun photos with our backdrop and props to show their friends and families how they spent their workday.

Set a regular volunteer schedule to build employee engagement by giving them something to look forward to. At the FoodBank, many of our corporate volunteer groups visit monthly as a team building opportunity or annually to coincide with a meeting or special event. Some companies dedicate one full month to giving back to the community by sending employee volunteers here weekly or even daily, depending on the size of the organization.

People want to work for companies that care. The evidence is abundant, and the effects are unmistakable–giving employees the opportunity to engage with social causes will strengthen their faith in your company and improve employee retention. Here at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, we provide that opportunity for thousands of corporate employees, who take great pride in their employers and in the work that they do as volunteers, helping food insecure families throughout New Jersey put food on their tables.

For more information on our corporate volunteer program, please contact Faye Kuhn, Director of Volunteer Services, at or 908-242-3944.