At a time when a global health crisis is limiting our social interactions and causing extraordinary stress, small yet meaningful gestures have the power to bring joy into our lives. With so many communities in need right now, lending a hand can make a huge difference for our neighbors and have a positive impact on our own emotional and mental well-being. Community service is one of my greatest passions, and I’ve seen first-hand how it can uplift both the giver and receiver. I’ve been inspired by how so many of us have come together to support each other during this incredibly challenging time.
The emotional benefits of giving back
Giving back is proven to be one of the best ways to improve our overall happiness. A study from BMC Public Health found that participation in volunteering activities correlates with better mental and physical health. Much of this stems from the sense of connection we feel by helping others. It’s something we value at Charles Schwab and a major reason why we recently launched our CommUNITY 2020 program, which creates new ways for employees to serve their communities during the pandemic.
Many of our employees have shared how rewarding it’s been to give back during this time. A story that really brings this to life is from an employee who volunteered with Jewish Vocational Services (JVS) through our CommUNITY 2020 program. Four years ago, she was out of work and went to JVS for help finding a job. When she saw that the organization was looking for virtual volunteers to help individuals seeking job assistance support, she jumped at the opportunity to pay it forward.
The greater need for giving now
This pandemic has created different challenges for every community, and there is a real need to support our underserved communities that have been hardest hit. Americans are stepping up to the challenge – a recent study found that Americans are now giving at a level that eclipses donations made during the 2008 recession and after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Despite this groundswell of interest in charitable giving, we’re also hearing that community organizations have had to cut back on their services as fears of the virus have impacted traditional volunteering methods. In May, one survey found that 61 percent of nonprofit employees were “very concerned” about how the current situation will impact volunteering, underscoring a need for volunteer opportunities that can be done from the safety of our own homes. That same survey found that almost half of charitable organizations (45 percent) had begun creating more virtual volunteer opportunities – up from 32 percent in March.
I’m impressed by how quickly communities and organizations have adapted and shifted to virtual volunteering. From our younger generations to our seniors, volunteerism inspires action – it is universal across generations and is the cornerstone of community engagement. For example, many of our elderly neighbors – who were already grappling with extreme loneliness – are even more isolated now that many community organizations aren’t able to make regular food deliveries and check-ins. Through our CommUNITY 2020 program, Schwab employees are helping to fill that gap by training to make welfare check-in calls to the elderly. It is stories like these that make me so proud to be a member of this community and see the power of virtual volunteering at work.
How to jumpstart giving
As we continue to navigate this pandemic, volunteerism will play a crucial role in keeping us connected and optimistic for a bright future. I hold the belief that altruism can be the elixir that energizes not only our communities, but also ourselves.
To jumpstart our virtual giving program, we followed four steps – which anyone can try – to find new ways for employees to engage in projects that fit their schedules, tap into their skills and align with their interests, all while staying safe:
- Act: Curating virtual volunteering opportunities for employees to offer their personal skills and talents.
- Give: Matching employees’ donations to the organizations and causes that they care about.
- Learn: Creating an internal educational series on the importance of giving and how to safely engage in community service right now.
- Share: Encouraging employees to share their stories and inspire others to follow their lead.
To me, giving back — no matter how you do it — has a lot of benefits for both the giver and receiver. And in times like these it can have a lasting effect. I encourage everyone to get involved in their community – even the smallest actions, like delivering a meal to your neighbor, can have an impact. While no one person can do everything, every one of us can do something.