This time of year, thoughts often turn toward gift giving and holiday shopping lists. When you think about gift giving, direct at least some of your shopping dollars toward local businesses. That is what Mistletoe Walk and Shop Small Saturday are all about! A dollar spent at a locally-owned business has a greater impact on the local economy than a dollar spent online or at a national retailer. By shopping local, you support people who are supporting your hometown through investment, taxes and employment.

Equally important, however, is to consider supporting the rest of the economy. A lot of important work is done by not for profit organizations throughout the year. Many of these organizations count on individuals to donate to them or volunteer with them (or both) in order to be able to do the important work they do. I am not breaking any news when I mention that donations of time or money help the organizations they are donated to. What may be news to you, however, is that donating and especially volunteering can benefit you personally and encouraging philanthropy in your company can benefit your company as well.

Studies have shown that companies that have a culture of volunteerism see benefits of increased employee retention because employees feel more connected to their community. Companies that champion a culture of volunteerism see improved employee recruitment because company culture plays an increasingly important role in prospects’ decisions as to whether to apply for a job or accept a job offer. Volunteerism can often help employees gain or develop useful skills for their jobs. I have known more than one person who took on leadership roles within their companies after they showed they were adept at leading a volunteer committee or organization.

Volunteering can also have many positive personal benefits. Volunteering connects you with others, often outside of your normal work circles. Volunteering gives you a sense of fun and fulfillment in your life. It gives you a chance to try out new skills, work on something you are passionate about and something that has a greater purpose than the biweekly paycheck. It can be good for you physically and mentally as well, helping in some cases to be more active and helping to relieve stresses found elsewhere in your life. Finally, volunteering for a cause or organization you believe in just plain feels good.

This holiday season, and beyond, think of other gifts you can give.

About the Author

Bill Clow
Bill Clow
Bill Clow is the Business Engagement Director for the Greater Freeport Partnership. Bill has had a long and varied career, including involvement in 4 different chambers, working in healthcare, education and consulting and running two radio stations, including one of which he helped to start. Bill enjoys working with local businesses, learning of their stories and helping them overcome challenges. He is excited to be discovering the many treasures of Stephenson County. Bill has a BS in Communications and an MBA from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana.