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Guest Column

Volunteerism: A Win-Win for Communities and Businesses

By Guest Columnist JIM GEIGER, CEO of Cbeyond who serves
on the boards of the Points of Light Institute (formerly HandsOn Network), Marist School and Southern Methodist Cox School of Business.

I’m a proud business owner and entrepreneur, but I know the world is bigger than me and bigger than my business. I must give back to the communities in which my business operates and encourage my employees to do the same.

Because I believe volunteerism is essential, I built my company on that foundation.

When we founded Cbeyond 10 years ago, we strived to create a culture that supported our entrepreneurial spirit, reflected our passion for volunteer service and supported employees’ personal volunteer interests.

We started with the premise that community involvement should begin with our employees.

Mirroring the entrepreneurial spirit of the company, we created a “passion-led, employee-driven” community involvement philosophy where employees are encouraged to follow their respective passions and volunteer in areas of their own personal interests rather than volunteer exclusively in company-mandated causes, issues or organizations.

Fast forward 10 years and this philosophy has proven successful.

From the beginning, volunteerism has been core to the company’s culture. From Atlanta to San Diego, Cbeyond continues to positively impact the neighborhoods and communities in which our employees live and work.

Our employees serve on non-profit boards, provide IT expertise to local non-profits, and regularly participate in volunteer projects as individuals and with their respective departments, teams and families.

The benefits of community involvement extend beyond the obvious. Through volunteer efforts, small and large businesses can:

• build strong relationships in the community,
• develop a stronger, highly-skilled workforce,
• recruit and retain talented employees and
• nurture professional networks.

Building Long Lasting Community Ties

The best volunteer efforts strategically connect local community organizations with volunteers who truly believe in the purpose and mission of the organizations they serve.

As a result, these volunteers (your employees) continue to serve organizations as individuals, skill-based volunteers, committee and board members long after an initial company-sponsored volunteer project.

This continuum strengthens relationships between a company and the communities in which it operates, and where its employees live and work. This also strengthens non-profits’ volunteer management and retention efforts.

Develop a Stronger, Highly-Skilled Workforce

Through service, employees leverage core competencies and develop skill sets that strengthen their corporate leadership potential. We realize that allowing our employees to engage in community relations efforts greatly builds our pool of future company leaders.

At the same time, we are helping attract and retain employees through creating a dynamic, energetic corporate culture that enhances the workplace and supports work-life balance.

Nurture Professional and Personal Networks

Through volunteer efforts, employees connect with fellow employees at all levels in the company and also connect and network with people outside of the company through volunteer team building experiences. This fosters a team environment and creates long-lasting professional and personal relationships inside the company and in the community.

Creating a company culture of volunteerism brings substantial benefit to communities and businesses.

Volunteerism improves communities, produces a more engaged electorate, develops a highly-skilled workforce, builds stronger employee teams and organically grows a company’s future leaders.

Volunteerism gives businesses of all sizes the opportunity to provide organizations and communities in need with much-needed resources and expertise. At the same time, businesses are developing employees, enhancing their companies’ respective cultures and strengthening relationships.

For nearly 10 years, volunteerism has been integral to Cbeyond’s culture and has helped us build our footprint in the markets we serve. Indeed, community service has played a key role in helping us grow our business from a three-person team in Atlanta to more than 1,500 employees in 12 markets across the country.

Jim Geiger is CEO of Cbeyond, a leading provider of integrated communications and IT services to more than 44,000 small businesses throughout the United States. Cbeyond was recently named sixth on the Forbes Fast Tech list of the fastest-growing technology companies in America. Cbeyond is headquartered in Atlanta. Cbeyond is proud to partner with Points of Light and its affiliates to connect employees to local volunteer opportunities

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