Corporate volunteering emerged as an extension of corporate social responsibility in the early 1990s and was meant to improve companies’ public image and boost employee engagement. With many employers vying for top Millennial talent in a tight labor market, partnerships with non-profit organizations to improve local communities or help with humanitarian efforts overseas have become a major selling point. According to the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship, over 90% of Fortune 500 companies encourage their workers to take part in volunteering programs.
Employees participating in these activities often describe their experiences as deeply meaningful, energy-boosting and useful in developing a host of soft skills, such as listening, empathy, adaptability, creativity, stress management and pedagogical skills. Corporate volunteering also helps baby boomers transition into a more active and socially-involved retirement.
COMMERCIALCafé has put together a list of non-profits in the Austin area that work together with different local and national companies to create better, greener and more caring communities. Keep reading to find out more details about their aims and volunteering opportunities.
Caritas Austin seeks to address the needs and vulnerabilities of people without a stable shelter, by providing them with safe places to stay, access to healthy food, educational opportunities and living-wage jobs in the hospitality, healthcare, manufacturing and IT industries.
Company employees looking to do volunteer work for Caritas Austin have a range of programs to engage with, from veterans’ assistance, to offering support to refugees in their first months in the city, to delivering groceries from the Caritas Pantry or serving up a nutritious lunch from Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
For low-earning Austinites, only 9% of the currently available housing on the market is affordable. Austin Habitat for Humanity pools together the contributions of over 8,000 volunteers each year to provide decent and affordable living conditions to those in need, as well as support for those at risk of losing their homes.
Throughout its 30 years of operating in Austin, the organization has built over 400 homes and repaired 248 houses of the elderly, disabled and veterans. Roughly 200 families gained access to foreclosure counselling and 17.5 million pounds of construction materials have been recycled through the ReStore program.
Volunteers can take an active role in the building of Habitat homes or donate to the cause. Donations from corporate, community and faith-based sponsors are used to buy the necessary construction materials. The teams of sponsor companies are prioritized when it comes to volunteer scheduling.
Foundation Communities owns and operates 22 communities all over Austin and North Texas, providing affordable green buildings to veterans, families, seniors and individuals with disabilities. These homes provide reduced operating costs and utility bills for residents and better places to live and thrive.
The organization first opened its doors in 1990s, renovating apartments in Austin to house roughly 500 families. By 2004, Foundation Communities had established the city’s first supporting housing community for formerly homeless adults, as well as a similar initiative for families with children. In 2017, the Austin Chronicle picked the group for the Best Affordable Housing Superheroes Award. Financial partners include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, the Meadows Foundation and Trellis Foundation.
Looking to get involved? You can help families by providing financial coaching, assisting children with their homework during after-school and summer learning programs or offer guidance with health insurance enrollment.
Having the right professional outfit can really boost one’s confidence when going in for a job interview. Dress for Success Austin understands this and, with the help of corporate backers such as AT&T, Dell, Walmart, Blue Cross Blue Shield Texas and Wells Fargo Advisors, it has made it its mission to help women make a great first impression in the workplace.
Volunteer groups can contribute to sorting, organizing and purging inventory on Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., participate in a career panel and help with resumé writing, provide mentorship or IT support for technical workshops. Volunteers can also host a donation drive, collecting new or as-new suits, business-appropriate accessories, shoes and unused cosmetics.
The Ronald McDonald House Charities opened its doors in 1985 and since then, it has served more than 7 million children and families yearly, through its local chapters in over 63 countries around the world, collecting donations worth more than $200 million.
The organization’s Austin chapter runs four support programs. The Ronald McDonald House and Family Rooms are two home-away-from-home initiatives meant to relieve parents of hospitalized children of the daily concerns of finding a place to stay, procure a hot meal and take care of cleaning. The Happy Wheels Carts stroll pediatric and neonatal hospital halls, giving away complimentary coffee, juice boxes, toiletries, coloring books, toys and snacks to families of hospitalized children. The Healing Hearts program is designed to support parents dealing with the trauma of losing a child.
Volunteers can sign up to help with cleaning, cooking and providing emotional support to families. Sponsors of the Ronald McDonald House Charities include Samsung Austin R&D Center, Brookfield Residential and Wells Fargo.
BookSpring began its activity in 1974 as an early literacy advocate, bringing together the efforts of two nationally-acclaimed organizations, called Reach Out and Read and Reading is Fundamental. The non-profit wants to contribute to a world in which families read and succeed together and to this end, has set itself the task of distributing 185,000 new and like-new books and engaging 105,000 children at BookSpring events in 2019, focusing on those from the most impoverished zip codes.
The organization relies on volunteers to help sort and curate the quality, literary value, topical relevance, reading level and age appropriateness of their books, as well as to read to children and help with delivery driving. Volunteer groups of up to 12 people can choose to get involved in any running BookSpring programs on the last Wednesday of each month, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or set up an event that fits their schedule.
The Boys & Girls Club understands that educational attainment and a sense of purpose go a long way in helping young people from vulnerable backgrounds build a better future for themselves. With 34 locations in both Travis and Bastrop County, this Austin-based youth development agency serves annually more than 7,500 registered members between the ages of 6 and 18.
The club works in tandem with parents, schools and other community leaders to increase school engagement, further academic achievement and bring down dropout rates among young people. Their efforts pay off, as their members have a 15% higher overall GPA scores than their peers and 86% fewer absences.
The club offers plenty of volunteering options, both individually and as a group in their After-School program and at one of their many Austin locations. Activities include tutoring, arts and crafts classes, and fitness and sport.
When it comes to combating poverty, United Way for Greater Austin knows takes a highly flexible and evidence-based approach. As needs in Austin have changed throughout its over 90 years of activity, research done at the local level has led to the group’s decision to switch their emphasis from a funding of basic needs model, to one of community impact work.
Partnering with companies such as 3M, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, IBM, General Motors and Target, United Way seeks to not only support families in need, but also effect long-term change within the community. Volunteers can choose between one-time projects or those requiring a more significant time commitment.
Meals on Wheels began operating in East Austin in 1972 and has ever since been at the forefront of efforts to improve quality of life and dignity of homebound people and others in need. Initially a grassroot organization which cooked and delivered meals to seniors three times a week, Meals on Wheels is presently coordinating several other programs aimed at supporting the most vulnerable members of the community. The group serves roughly 5,000 seniors in Central Texas, provides 3,000 meals each weekday and has put $3.6 million into repairing homes.
Volunteering opportunities include diverse duties like rural meal delivery, care for Alzheimer patients, weekly groceries delivery, helping seniors battling depression and care for their pets, home repair and maintenance work and specialized care for veterans.
Austin Parks Foundation (APF) came about to address the maintenance gap that the over 300 parks and 20,000 acres of green space within the city face. According to the non-profit, Austin currently spends $108 per resident for upkeep and enhancements, way behind the $208 per resident spent by top 10 ranked cities on ParkScore.
APF highlights the many economic, health, educational and environmental benefits of an extended park system, and directs its volunteers to advocate for funding and get involved in maintenance projects. The foundation has invested roughly $495,000 in volunteer park labor and deployed 6,400 volunteers, working in partnership with the likes of Austin City Limits Music Festival, Subaru and Central National Bank to improve greenbelts around the city. The organization also holds a large city-wide volunteering event called It’s My Park Day the first Saturdays in March and November.