The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. (JLA) has spent a century developing the potential of women and improving the community through leadership of trained volunteers. The impact of that training is readily apparent in non-profit organizations across the city. From Terri Badour Duckett, CEO of the American Red Cross of Georgia and Metropolitan Atlanta, to Alicia Phillip, President of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, and Sarah Batts, Executive Director of the Shepherd Center Foundation, women with JLA experience are running large, influential not-for-profit companies.
And while not as obvious, Atlanta for-profit corporations benefit immensely from the leadership skills women gain through the JLA. I can attest to these transferable business skills firsthand as my career success is interwoven with my JLA leadership experience. My first foray into professional sales management came after a year leading a JLA committee that had revenue and profit margin goals. My promotion to director of a regional consulting firm came after several years of JLA service that expanded my skills in volunteer management, operational planning and strategic plan development. Every time an expanded role at work came available, part of the required experience was demonstrable because of something I had learned at the JLA.
While these transferable skills are being taken back to the workforce, the benefit to companies does not stop with trained employees. Volunteering is shown to reduce stress and depression, provide mental stimulation and create a sense of purpose, which combine to increase a person’s happiness. Effective professional development and fulfilled, engaged employees aside, corporate citizenship is becoming a critical business essential. The Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship found that companies that integrate corporate citizenship into business strategy are more likely to achieve business goals. In fact, the longer a company invests in a corporate citizenship program, the higher the success of realizing business objectives.
Volunteerism at work can take a variety of forms. Large corporations can support volunteer programs and teams who regularly participate in direct service initiatives like building a home with Habitat for Humanity. Smaller organizations may offer a day of direct service to encourage volunteerism and teamwork perhaps taking a shift at the Atlanta Community Food Bank to sort food. Regardless of size, many companies offer employees a paid day to volunteer in the community. There are often company ‘matches’ for cash donations that correlate to the number of volunteered hours and opportunities to be recognized as the volunteer of the year at work!
The reality for many businesses, though, is that volunteerism as a nice perk or benefit may no longer be optional. Promoting and providing employees with meaningful volunteer opportunities helps to attract top talent. Volunteer experience allows corporations to engage, develop, and retain employees. Corporate citizenship provides a boost to public image. All of these activities are shown to improve the bottom line.
So get out and volunteer with your co-workers, employees and boss. Not sure where or how to start? Find the woman in your network that is a member of the JLA. I guarantee you she can point you in the right direction. It’s what she has been trained – for generations – to do.