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Five reasons employers should consider corporate volunteerism
For International Volunteer Day, Venture37 Farmer-to-Farmer Program Director Sadie Paschke talks about how companies like Land O'Lakes, Inc. benefit when their employees volunteer globally
Over the last six years, I’ve had the pleasure of managing the John Ogonowski and Doug Bereuter Farmer-to-Farmer program for Land O’Lakes Venture37. I mobilize skilled American volunteers to support agribusinesses abroad – all in the interest of food security and global economic growth.

One of my favorite things about my job is talking with volunteers after their international assignments. Volunteers share stories about the positive impact they’ve seen and the life-changing experience they’ve had. It’s clear a win-win for the volunteer and the organization they are serving. Today, I’m thinking about a third win: The volunteer’s employer.

Here are five reasons why employers should support employees interested in international volunteer assignments:

Cultivate a Positive Workplace Morale
Employees, particularly millennials, who now represent the largest percentage of the American workforce, expect more from their employers than a paycheck. They want to work for a company that shares their values and offers opportunities to make impact in their communities and abroad. A 2017 Deloitte corporate volunteerism study found that 89% of respondents thought that businesses that support volunteer opportunities offer a better overall work environment than those that don’t.

Retain talent
Recruitment, hiring and training new employees can be time consuming and costly to employers. Some studies have estimated it can cost 125 to 200% of a skilled employee’s salary. Returning volunteers often say they feel rejuvenated in their work and commitment to a company that is aligned with their values to give back.

Attract new talent
An astonishing 75% of millennials said that they would take a pay cut to work for a socially conscious employer. I’m not surprised. I have heard many Land O’Lakes, Inc. employees cite their admiration for Land O’Lakes Venture37. The chance to volunteer on programs abroad is one of the reasons they choose Land O’Lakes.

Refine employee skills
Learning by doing is arguably the most effective method for skill-building. International assignments require employees to use their expertise in very different settings, in places that have varying degrees of technological sophistication and scale. They’re encouraged to think about their own jobs in new ways, making them more agile and refining their skills. Employees that are afforded the opportunity to volunteer abroad gain valuable skills for international work like cultural competency, understanding of international markets and sector-specific skills that volunteers apply to their own workplace.

Demonstrate corporate purpose with action
Nowadays, behaving and operating in a responsible manner is critical to a company’s bottom line because the reputation and actions of a company as a force for good directly relates to consumer and employee loyalty and the company’s bottom line performance. Just as employees want to work for a company that shares their values, consumers continue to demand transparency and ethical business practices from  the goods and services they consume. Corporate volunteerism offers an opportunity for skilled employees to contribute their specific expertise toward a cause while the company that demonstrates their commitment to being a good social steward.

Over the last several years, Land O’Lakes, Inc. has increased its commitment to corporate volunteerism, both domestic and international, allowing some employees to volunteer on company time.  In 2019, Land O’Lakes and its employees contributed $1.4 million in volunteer hours, domestic and abroad, and 40% of the volunteers that Venture37 mobilized through Farmer-to-Farmer were from within the company. Happy employees are the best advocate for a company. In 2019, Land O’Lakes was rated number 29 on the Indeed.com Fortune 500, top-rated employers list. Land O’Lakes has earned this coveted rating through several initiatives including opportunities to volunteer on company time.
 
Since 1987, Venture37 has fielded more than 1,400 volunteers to over 27 countries. More than 170 of these volunteers have been from Venture37’s affiliate, Land O’Lakes, Inc. This premier agribusiness and farmer-owned cooperative began offering opportunities for its employees and members owners to through the Farmer-to-Farmer Program. This global program is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by several organizations including Venture37.

For more information about the other Farmer-to-Farmer implementing organizations and their programs visit www.farmer-to-farmer.org. Explore Venture37 Farmer-to-Farmer assignments here.
By Sadie Paschke, Program Director for Farmer-to-Farmer 12/05/2019