Chamber News

Giving Back to our Communities | Workforce Report | March 2024

March 21st, 2024

Corporate philanthropy can create a lift to your company’s bottom line, while also improving employee morale and engagement. In fact, a recent SHRM Engagement Study found that nearly 75 percent of employees say their job is more fulfilling when they are provided opportunities to make a positive impact at work, and 51 percent won’t work for a company that doesn’t have a strong commitment to addressing social and environmental issues. Interest in making a significant social impact cuts across generations, and even small efforts can yield big gains.

The Columbus Chamber of Commerce conducted our own internal employee engagement survey in 2023 and found that many of our associates share an expressed desire to give back and make a positive impact on our Region.   As a result, we amended our Employee Handbook to offer teammates 16 hours of paid time each quarter to volunteer with an organization or agency that is meaningful to them. This is done with advanced approval by the associate’s immediate supervisor.  Additionally, the Chamber Team volunteers as a group each quarter with our members. This policy went into effect in January 2024.

I recently sat down with the Chamber’s own Events Producer Kayleigh Bowe and Marketing Specialist Aaliyah Phounsavath and Paul O’Connor, Senior Director of Advancement at BESA’ to share their volunteer experiences.


What about the organization that you chose, interests you?

I have a personal relationship with the DECA organization. I was a part of DECA my junior and senior year of high school. I got to compete at the local (Owens Community College), state (Columbus Ohio Convention Center), and national level (every year it changes, but my senior year was in Nashville, TN) in an event of my choosing which was Sports and Entertainment Promotional Plan. It was a hands-on experience in creating a marketing strategy plan for a business of my choosing. It was during this business program that I realized what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, and it’s helped me immensely in my professional career. DECA is a comprehensive program that high school aged students have to apply to be a part of. They prepare emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for college and careers, and if it wasn’t for this amazing program, I know for a fact I wouldn’t be where I am today as a Marketing Specialist working for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.

How did you find out about the opportunity to volunteer?

The state DECA competition is held every year in Columbus at the Convention Center. You have to be out of the DECA program for a number of years before you can be a judge at any of their events. Since I’m based in Columbus, my DECA teacher has reached out to me the last 3 years to be a judge, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to help high school students in the same way those judges did for me all those years ago. Anyone that’s a business professional or educator of any age can judge (must be 5 years out of high school) – there’s a link on their website to volunteer at local competitions near you:

What would you share with others who are looking for ways to get involved in their communities?

It’s a wonderful thing to be able to give back not only to my local community, but also, to my hometown high school. There are SO many organizations, schools, businesses that need volunteers, and almost always, that is made available on their respective social media platforms or websites. My “why” for wanting to volunteer and get involved in my community is because ultimately, it makes the world a better place, and provides me with mental peace knowing that one small act of kindness could change someone’s life. Maybe cliché, but if we all take a moment to step back and help others, everyone is better off.


What about the organizations that you chose, interests you?

I have volunteered with two different organizations so far. The first was Mid-Ohio Food Collective. I picked this opportunity because I have volunteered with MOFC in the past and really enjoyed it. I have always wanted to go back to volunteer again, and this was the perfect time to do so. Their mission and workload has expanded drastically since the last time I volunteered, so I was really interested to learn about their expansion and see how things have changed. I picked my volunteer opportunity with the Greater Columbus Sports Commission (GCSC) because it seemed like a fun event to help with in order to learn more about what the GCSC does and how the Figure Skating Championship chose Columbus this year.

What was most memorable about the experience?

During my time at MOFC, I got to meet some really great people that I was paired off with. It just happened to be on one of MOFC’s largest fundraising days of the year, so I also got to see a lot more of their volunteer and development staff and got a little sneak peak into what their monetary needs are and how they help with their mission.

What would you share with others who are looking for ways to get involved in their communities?

There is always a need. Find something that you are passionate about or pick tasks that seem fun to you and find where you fit. There are so many opportunities with local organizations to give back. Even if you think 2 hours of sorting food donations isn’t enough, it is making a huge difference to the team and to those who need it.


How does volunteering help companies?

  • Volunteer programs help businesses attract and retain talent.

According to the Deloitte survey, millennials and Gen Zers say a sense of purpose is critical — along with a positive work-life balance and pay — when choosing new employers. Nearly two in five of the younger generations, and nearly half of those in leadership positions, have rejected a job because it didn’t align with their personal ethics.  Today’s employees want to make a societal and environmental impact, so companies that offer employer-sponsored volunteer programs are more attractive. Companies that help their employees impact the world through volunteerism have a better chance of attracting and retaining top talent.

  • Volunteer programs boost employee engagement.

According to Gallup, only 36 percent of employees feel positively engaged in their positions, although they want to be invested in, connected to and enthusiastic about their employers. Volunteer programs are an excellent way to create and boost employee engagement, motivating employees to invest time and energy into their employer relationship.

The values and skills they acquire via a volunteer program allow them to perform better while fostering a deeper sense of loyalty to the company. More engaged workers are more productive, making volunteer programs a win for employers, employees, and the causes they support.

Besa lives at the intersection of individuals and businesses that want to do good and be more involved. We make it incredibly easy for individuals by. having them simply visit our site and signing up to volunteer. There, they can choose between 70 public volunteer experiences each month. For businesses, we become the turn key solution that allows them to efficiently and effectively build an internal volunteer program that connect their employees to not only causes they care about, but the most pressing needs at the moment here in Columbus.

Kelly Fuller 
Vice President of Talent & Workforce Development