Listen to the Interview with Cheryl Kortemeier from Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta
In This Episode:
Cheryl Kortemeier is the executive director of the Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta – or CVC Atlanta – a network of local businesses that are passionate about volunteerism. The organization provides resources to help businesses build strong community investment strategies and make a difference through service, while members share ways to address community needs through workplace volunteering.
Cheryl spoke to us about promoting corporate responsibility and civic-mindedness and why corporate volunteerism is important?
She also makes the business case for corporate social responsibility – particularly to people who insist that corporations ought to be all about shareholder value and growth.
Cheryl also tells us about CVC’s annual IMPACT Corporate Program of the Year Award, which recognizes organiations for model employee volunteer programs – and which companies were cited for their work over the past year.
We then discuss the key member benefits of joining CVC Atlanta, and how they stay stay connected with the Atlanta business community. Cheryls shares several of her “growth hacking” strategies that have been effective in growing their membership.
CVC Of Atlanta Podcast Key Time Stamps
- 1:23: What drew Cheryl to her civic-minded work.
- 3:43: Why corporate volunteerism is important.
- 7:49: Making the business case for corporate social responsibility.
- 9:41: The 2021 Impact Corporate Program of the Year Award recognizes organizations for model employee volunteer programs. Cheryl tells us about this year’s winners
- 14:09 : The member benefits of joining CVC Atlanta.
- 16:08 How CVC stays connected with the Atlanta business community – their marketing strategies for growing their membership.
Featuring Cheryl Kortemeier, Executive Director of Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta
Welcome to adventures in growth hacking strategies and techniques to put your company on the fast track to business growth. Cheryl Kortemeier is executive director of the corporate volunteer Council of Atlanta, or CVC. Atlanta, a network of local businesses that are passionate about volunteer is the organization provides resources to help businesses build strong community investment strategies, and make a difference through service while members share ways to address community needs through workplace volunteering. Cheryl joins us today from Decatur, Georgia. Cheryl, welcome.
Thank you so much, Tom. It’s great to be with you this morning.
Great to have you on and please say hello to my podcast partner, Charles Epstein.
How are you today, Charles?
I’m doing well. Cheryl, thanks so much for joining us today. You know, it appears I was going through your LinkedIn page and it appears you spent most of your professional career working for organizations promoting corporate responsibility and civic mindedness. I was curious and am curious, what drew you to this work?
Thank you so much for asking that question, Charles. And I love this question. And I like to look way back, before I became a nonprofit administrator, and think about my when my career began, I actually started my work in corporate communications and event planning, and had moved from Atlanta or to Atlanta from Augusta, Georgia, which is a much smaller town. And I worked for several years at a very large company that had me traveling a lot. So you know, many days, many weeks Monday through Friday, I was hopping on a plane and going to distant lands, and then coming home on the weekends to Atlanta. And so after a few years, I just didn’t feel real connected with my community around me. So as I thought about ways to get to know Atlanta, and to get to know others, I sort of reflected back on my childhood. And my mom was a Girl Scout leader for my sister and me and so many Saturday mornings as a kid, she would have us out on the side of the road collecting aluminum cans, and then we would take them to the recycling center. And we did this not only for beautification, but because we could earn a little money when we turned in those cans for a Girl Scout troop. And so I guess you might say that volunteering sort of became part of my DNA. So here I am, back in Atlanta, feeling disconnected from my community. And when I thought about ways to connect to my community, volunteering came to mind. And so I started going out on my weekends in between, you know, my work, travel, and trying to find volunteer causes that I found meaningful. And so eventually, I found an organization that really resonated with me, and decided to make the switch from the corporate sector to the nonprofit sector at that time. And then really never looked back at I found that when I worked in the nonprofit sector and worked for causes that I cared about, it sort of brought a new depth and level to my career satisfaction. So yeah, never, never turned back.
Great answer. Thanks. Cheryl, on your website, you ask, why is corporate volunteerism important? So let me ask you what, why is it important?
You know, some companies are led by people like me, who might have volunteering in their DNA. And so they think, oh, gosh, you know, let’s incorporate volunteering and everything we do. But I’ve always heard there are three types of people there are people who volunteer because they’ve always done it. There are people who learn to volunteer through gateway opportunities as in their workplace. And then there are people who just aren’t into that, right. So when companies think about volunteering, it’s important to think about all these different audiences they might have. But I will say, when a company offers volunteer opportunities to their employees, they’re creating opportunities to reinforce their brand by being present in the community. And so that’s really great. You might have seen, you know, employees out volunteering, and they’re wearing branded t shirts or, you know, they might provide product or services that a nonprofit partner might share about through their communication channels so that brand reinforcement is important. And volunteering through your company also allows opportunities for employees to build relationships with the community and with each other. So team building is a great reason for corporate volunteering. We also find that employees can build skills when they’re volunteering. So any person who’s giving back can do a direct service project. And I’ll, for example, I’ll think about painting a school, anybody can go up and paint, right. But if you are somebody who works for a company that sells paint, and you are brought in to paint a school, it can become on the job training for some of your employees. So that’s just one example of building skills. When you volunteer, it’s also a great opportunity to be a project manager or try new professional skills and sort of a safe environment. So a lot of companies like it for that reason, we found that employees who volunteer are happier and healthier. So especially in this time of COVID, when people feel a little disconnected, or might be working, virtually, having even virtual volunteer opportunities as a way to bring people together and make you feel a part of something bigger, and therefore happier. And there are actually studies that show that when you volunteer, it can lower your blood pressure. So companies are realizing real value when it comes to the expenses that are associated with health care for their employees. So that’s the big one. And then let’s see, another one I love is this is super important these days is employee attraction and retention. So we know that employees are more attracted to companies that give back and that have, you know, an investment in the community. And it also allows those companies to leave a legacy. When we connect people across communities, it’s essential for solving community challenges at their roots as well. So we have lots of societal strains like poverty, our aging population, we have deficiencies and education and equity. But when we bring people together through volunteering, we can help level the playing field for everybody and really create, you know, effective and meaningful ways for communities to solve problems together. So those are some of my favorite reasons for volunteering.
That’s excellent. You know, you anticipated my next question, which is going to be to someone who insists that corporations ought to be all about shareholder value and growth. How do you make business case or corporate social responsibility, but you already pretty much answered that Cheryl. So thank you. You know, branding, team building and the rest. And as you said, even lowering one’s blood pressure, which to me sounds like a real winner.
I’m in for volunteering right now, Charles, it’ll help bring your blood pressure down, it’s good that you had me bring your blood pressure.
So going back to those benefits, I just listed a decent think we know the feel good reasons for volunteering. But there really is a whole lot more data that’s becoming available to indicate the volunteering is great for the bottom line. So in fact, back in, I think it was 2014. There’s a national nonprofit called points of light. And in partnership with a professional group called the corporate executive board, or CB, they found that for each employee that a company has out in the community volunteering, the company can see a return on investment of $1,400 per employee per year. Wow. So that was almost 10 years ago when they came up with that number. So imagine if you have dozens or hundreds or even 1000s of employees out volunteering that can have a powerful return on investment. And then, you know, we think about the changing demographics in our workforce. We’ve got our millennial and Centennial colleagues coming on up, that’s our Gen Y and Gen Z. And they prefer to not not only to work for civically minded companies, but they absolutely will not work for a company that doesn’t strategically think about so sure. So I think companies are learning that and thankfully, lots of them are responding by taking action, and they’re offering volunteer opportunities and thinking about comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility plan.
Our guest is Cheryl Kortemeier. Cheryl is the executive director of the corporate volunteer Council of Atlanta that CVC Atlanta share your annual 2021 impact corporate program of the Year award recognizes organizations for model employee volunteer programs. If you wouldn’t mind. Tell us a little bit about this year’s winners.
Thanks for asking about that, Tom. So, the CBC impact awards just to give you a little background on our awards program we’ve offered for 24 years now. And so we’ve got a long history with that, and we celebrate the best of the best in corporate civic engagement. So this year, we had Three award categories. We had our skills based Impact Award, our project Impact Award, and then our overall corporate program Impact Award. So this year, we had an our skills based Impact Award category. We had a collaborative project that was our winner. And that featured the companies AT&T, Kilpatrick, Townsend law firm, Warner media, and their nonprofit partner, the pro bono partnership of Atlanta. And what they did is they thought about all of the legal resources they had available within their different organizations. And they knew that there was a lot of need in the community as far as funding because when COVID hit and everything sort of shut down, a lot of nonprofits are delivering more services than ever, but they didn’t have the resources necessarily to continue doing that. So these four organizations got together, brought their legal teams together, and they assisted 11 nonprofits with completing the PPP and economic injury, disaster loans. And they were able to secure over $575,000 for these 11 nonprofit partners, which was really essential to keep those services happening in the Atlanta community and beyond. Next, we had our project Impact Award. The winner here, again, you’ll hear is Warner media, and they receive their award for their global volunteer day. Every year, they have a global volunteer day, but this year, they made it 100% virtual. So around the world, employee volunteers were doing virtual projects to give back included things like knitting projects, you know, knitting wonderful things for babies, and for seniors, it included, you know, building kits for students and for others who might need, you know, supplies. So they really got creative and they looked at the individual communities they were serving around the globe and really, you know, selected projects and partners that reflected that needs of the individual communities. So that was powerful. Finally, for overall program Impact Award, we were excited to highlight j L L. Now I like to call LL the Susan Lucci of Impact they, they have been a finalist, I think three, maybe even four years and they are always a runner up. But this is the first year that they were selected as the winner so they were more excited than ever and we were to they have a year round focus on children and education. They also support issues impacting hunger and homelessness, as well as health and wellness. So as we all know, the commercial real estate industry really faced challenges this year. But they found that by bringing their employees together through volunteerism, they were able to boost morale, and really help out their nonprofit partners. So they did a lot of things like packing donation kits, they filmed encouraging videos for seniors who are isolated in their residential living centers. They adopted seniors and children as angels through their Angel tree program, and many, many other volunteer activities. So we really felt good about the community that they continued to build through their volunteer network.
You really shining a light on some amazing, amazing initiatives. Cheryl, some really great work people are doing in the community and a particular shout out to Jay L L. It’s about time.
I know. I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention our three runners up: King and Spalding, Frazier, a law firm, and Deeter, which is an accounting firm, and Cox Enterprises. So they’re all doing great work out there, for sure.
So let me ask you, what are some of the member benefits of joining CVC Atlanta.
The CVC, whether we’re in person or virtual offers monthly facilitated programming, we focus on education, networking, and knowledge sharing. So that’s really from a professional development angle. So we are supporting the people at companies who are community facing. We have special interest groups that we offer based on industry. We connect with a nationwide network of other corporate volunteer councils. So there are other business associations across the US who are coming together to share best practices. We also recognize on our website and through social media, and of course at our impact awards that I’ve just mentioned. We mentioned the great things that our members are doing so we like to take those stories and share in hopes that Not only lifting up those who are already doing good work, but also inspiring other companies to dip their toe in the water and get. We participate in a members only Facebook forum. So companies can ask each other questions in real time and group up and solve. We also have members only resources, tools and research as well as event listings beyond the CVC, and a member directory that our members have access to. And then we also offer access to nonprofits who work well with corporate volunteers, because a lot of our companies like to know about effective partnerships and share those resources. And then finally, I would say we have opportunities for participants to really individually experience professional growth. So I think it’s a, you know, participating is a great way to build your personal professional skills as well as support your company.
Excellent. Um, one more question. How do you stay connected with the Atlanta business community? And what? What marketing strategies have you found effective and growing your membership?
I would say our best marketing resource has been just referrals from our members. So as I mentioned, the CVC members are very civically involved. And often the time oftentimes, through business to business partnerships, or just being out in the community working on various things throughout the year, they meet others in this space, who are either wanting to get into corporate social responsibility, or you know, who may be doing it, but didn’t know about the CVC. So referrals is our number one strategy. And then we have a membership committee. It’s all volunteer run, of course, and they like to keep an eye on new companies in town and, you know, offer the CVC as a resource to these companies so that they can get plugged in in metro Atlanta. And then we also partner with other businesses. For example, we recently launched a partnership with global background screening, which is a company that offers background checks, which are necessary for hiring obviously, but also for a lot of employee volunteers, especially if they’re working with kids. But we refer companies to global background screening or GBS as we call them for these services, and then they in return, refer clients to us as they meet new companies. So it’s fun to have partnerships like that one. We have a strong presence on Facebook, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, and Instagram. So I invite everybody to follow us at CVC of Atlanta. And then on Instagram, we’re just at CVC Atlanta. We also published an annual publication in the Atlanta business Chronicle here in Atlanta. And that focuses on a lot of the great work of our membership. And, you know, again, we hope to inspire other companies and to highlight trends and best practices and corporate social responsibility. I will say my favorite marketing tool and strategy is the, you know, leveraging the power of positive peer pressure. So for example, if one law firm joins the CVC, all the law firms like to join the CVC. So the CVC is definitely a place that kind of, you know, where companies can come together with an industry and collaborate in a positive way. So even if they’re competitors in the marketplace, the CVC provides a space where everybody’s on the same page when it comes to serving community.
It’s amazing, the persistent influence of peer pressure, worked in the sixth grade works to this day. It’s an amazing it’s an amazing thing.
Nobody wants to be left behind Charles.
Absolutely. And, Cheryl, pardon this crass commercial timeout. But if you’re ever interested in doing a podcast for the showcase all the great work your members are doing, you know where to turn.
Oh, thanks a million. I appreciate that. We’ve got lots to share. Boy, the stories could go on for days. Oh,
I’m sure. Yeah. Yeah. Well, Cheryl, we really thank you for joining us today. Thank you so much.
It’s been my absolute pleasure, Tom. Charles, I appreciate your time and it’s been great. Great chatting with you.
Sure. Cheryl Kortemeier is executive director of the Corporate Volunteer Council of Atlanta. That’s CVC. Atlanta. Cheryl spoke to us today from Decatur, Georgia. You’ve been listening to adventures in growth hacking strategies and techniques to put your company on the fast track to business growth. Thanks for listening
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