Why We Encourage Our Employees to Skip Work to Volunteer

Every employee at Clif Bar is encouraged to volunteer at least 21 hours a year through Project 2080; volunteer time happens during paid work hours.

Six to eight times a year, Imke Beator, a customer service representative at our headquarters in Emeryville, California, leaves her desk for two hours during the workday to deliver meals to homebound senior citizens. She and a co-worker grab a company vehicle, drive to nearby Berkeley, load up nearly 20 balanced meals prepared by the nonprofit Meals on Wheels, and deliver them door-to door.

“I want to be able to reach out beyond myself, but as a single mom life outside of work is so hectic and kid-focused,” said Beator, who also facilitates our Meals on Wheels partnership at Clif Bar. “Having an opportunity to volunteer during the workday is a great benefit and very rewarding. For many of the seniors, we’re their only contact of the day, maybe the only contact in their lives.”

Beator isn’t alone. Volunteering on company time, dubbed Project 2080 for the number of hours one full-time employee works in a year, is encouraged at Clif Bar. Since Project 2080 began in 2001, our employees have donated close to 50,000 hours to nonprofits within a 50-mile radius of the office at such places as community gardens, food banks, schools, parks and animal shelters. In 2012, 98 percent of employees participated in the program, donating 8,076 hours.

Clif Bar has fostered workday volunteerism since its inception in 1992, even before Project 2080 formalized the effort. Though Project 2080 is voluntary, each employee is encouraged to volunteer at least 21 hours a year toward the annual companywide total hours goal, which increases as the company grows. In the past decade, service has become deeply ingrained into the company’s core through its five bottom lines that include sustaining our business, our brands, our people, the planet, and the community.

Having the opportunity to volunteer is one of the reasons a lot of people come to work at Clif Bar. It’s who we are, and part of our spirit. We let employees select the organizations they would like to support. Giving back through hands-on action not only changes us for the better as individuals, but as a company.

Gary Hensley, director of our IT Department, said his 12-person team chooses to volunteer regularly at a non-profit community bike shop because it combines two integral parts of the company’s DNA—volunteerism and cycling. Changing Gears Bike Shop in Alameda, California, refurbishes and sells bikes at low cost to the community, training volunteers like Gary’s team to help with bike repairs.

In addition to hosting a couple of large fundraisers for nonprofits annually, we go the extra mile each year and get all 330 of our employees out on a full-day volunteer project. Over the years, we’ve been able to do everything from completely transform a large community garden in San Francisco to make over the building and grounds at Emeryville High School.

Every company should tailor its community service program to its own particular needs, but we’ve learned a few lessons along the way that might be useful to others. It helps if support for volunteering comes from the top so that managers and employees feel empowered and encouraged to participate. Letting employees select the organizations increases involvement and adds meaning to the program. Finally, setting a reasonable goal for the program (a target number of volunteer hours, for example) helps ensure your company can handle community service without undue strain on operations.

We’re all really lucky at Clif Bar to work for a company that cares a great deal about the community. It’s good for recruiting, it’s good for morale and it’s good for employees, but most of it all it’s just the right thing to do. It’s the way we believe in doing business.

We're challenging the GOOD community to commit our time to service. Go here to pledge 1 percent of your time—that's 20 hours—to being part of the solution this year.

Images courtesy of Clif Bar.

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