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Carolyn Kaster, Associated Press
With the holiday season approaching, Utah business professionals may have a variety of opportunities for philanthropic work through their employment. A new survey says the volunteer work may help the givers as much as the receivers.

SALT LAKE CITY — Kenner Kingston said he knew it was his duty to change the sense of purpose at Arch Nexus architectural firm in Salt Lake City when he became its president in 2014.

"Business thinks people are motivated by monetary rewards, but that is only partially true," he said. "It's OK to have the value of money, but you have to have additional values, and we do."

Kingston initiated a philanthropy program to "infuse" the firm with community values, he said, paying employees up to 16 hours for volunteer time per year.

Since implementing the program, the company has been more profitable, driven and connected than in earlier years, according to Kingston.

Other U.S. companies are seeing similar results for their volunteer efforts, according to a just-released survey from the staffing firm Robert Half.

According to the survey, 41 percent of employees age 18 and older volunteer outside of work. Of those who volunteer, 49 percent said their philanthropic activities have helped them develop new skills they can use in the workplace.

Thirty-five percent of business professionals in the survey said volunteering enhances their company's visibility, and 61 percent said it helps improve their sense of well-being and effectiveness in the office.

"Volunteering makes employers happier, and that goes a long way," said Bob Millerberg, the CEO of Crest Financial in Draper.

Millerberg's Utah-based financing company established a volunteer program at its opening 10 years ago. Yearly service activities include food drives and Sub for Santa campaigns, he said.

Although volunteering occasionally causes scheduling and logistical challenges, he said it is worth the cost because it creates a fun environment by "breaking up the monotony of the workday."

This year, Crest Financial employees spent a total of 1,000 paid volunteer hours building a house for an impoverished woman through Habitat for Humanity, and afterward they invited the woman to their Christmas party because they felt a connection with her.

Getting to know new people was one of the top business benefits of philanthropic work, according to the survey. Fifty-seven percent of volunteers said philanthropic activities expand their network.

Damian Garcia, Robert Half regional vice president, said one of the biggest personal benefits from volunteering is becoming friends with his co-workers.

"We work with these people day in and day out, but (volunteering) is your chance to see your co-workers in a different light, and have a different bond," he said. "It builds team camaraderie and it's just overall a positive experience."

Katelyn Thompson, an events coordinator for University of Utah Hospitals, said the U. doesn't pay employees for their volunteer work, but it is part of their workplace culture. It's so important to the hospital, she said, that they explain their philanthropic activities to their new hires during employee orientation.

Thompson participates in food drives sponsored by the hospital and the Utah Food Bank. She also participates in the Make-A-Wish Foundation on her own time.

"It's the same thing whether it is through work or not," she said. "It still is a way to give back and be thankful, and that affects your work life."

When people seek out volunteer opportunities on their own, Garcia said, it often leads to more workplace philanthropic involvement.

"You can have one person in your office start with one cause or one event or just a few hours here or there, and it becomes contagious and infectious," Garcia said. "It doesn't have to be hundreds of hundreds of hours. I like to just encourage people to start somewhere."

Robert Half gives these tips of how to get started in volunteer work:

• Find an organization in need. Search for organizations you care about in your community, and then contact them to see how they could use your help. Be sure to explain your particular skills and interests.

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• Check with your employer. Many companies have ties to nonprofit organizations or facilitate charitable activities. Other companies offer volunteer matching or grant programs for those employees who give their time.

• Invite your colleagues to join you. One person can make a big impact, but there could be power in numbers if your co-workers come, too.

• Look beyond the holidays. There are community service opportunities available throughout the year, such as park cleanups and exercising for a good cause.

Email: vjorgensen@deseretnews.com

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