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Motivating employees to give back all-year long

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For the United Way’s Day of Action 2013 in June, corporate volunteers helped fund and assemble 25,000 bilingual summer book kits for low-income children.

Donating money to provide a family with a Thanksgiving turkey. Volunteering at a homeless shelter. Advocating for a favorite charity event. The holidays tend to be a time where employees are in the giving spirit. But the needs of the San Diego community continue year-round.

For more than 93 years, United Way of San Diego County has worked with many of the area’s small and large businesses, developing ways to keep employees motivated to give back throughout the year.

Give time

For some, the most rewarding type of community participation is to give their time to help others -- especially if the company provides paid time off or uses these activities for team building.

United Way is currently in its second year of its Volunteer Challenge to recruit readers, tutors and mentors. With flexible time commitments ranging from a few hours on one day to volunteering on a weekly basis, donating time is one of the best ways for employees to see the results of their support.

For example, during United Way’s Day of Action on June 21, 100 San Diego business leaders and their employees assembled 4,000 book bags, bilingual books and bookmarks to encourage summer reading among low-income students. Volunteer groups included United Way’s board of directors, GEICO, Pratt & Whitney AeroPower, Bridgepoint Education (NYSE: BPI), San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, San Diego County Office of Education and KPMG.

Give money

Solar Turbines, known for its community service, is United Way’s largest corporate donor. Solar Turbines has found that offering “opportunity drawings” for baskets compiled and donated by a particular office, division, business unit or work team are especially effective. The company holds this drawing at the annual employee kickoff lunch for the United Way/Combined Health Agencies campaign.

The company also realizes that informing employees about where their money is going leads them to donate with confidence. Donors like to see their funds used strategically and effectively to achieve real, measurable results. For example, donors appreciate that United Way issues twice yearly progress reports on how their investment is improving the community, which helps keep them engaged.

Give support

Educating employees about worthy nonprofits, what they do and how they do it can also help them spread the word to their friends, family and co-workers. Employees can learn more about issues they care about and let others know how they can get involved.

What are they passionate about? Education, financial self-sufficiency, health, homelessness, or something else? For the best results, employees should be provided with a selection of options that also align with the company’s mission.

For San Diego Chargers’ Antonio Gates, United Way’s local Team NFL representative, his cause of choice is youth education. He said, “Having two young children of my own, I understand the importance of positive role models and learning opportunities for San Diego’s youth, in and out of the classroom.”

Encouraging employees to give money, time and support to charities year-round is a great way to foster teambuilding, improve workforce morale, meet corporate social responsibility goals -- and most importantly, create lasting change in the community.

-Sawyer is president and CEO of United Way of San Diego County.

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