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Beyond the Bottom Line: Elevating Corporate Culture Through Volunteerism in Kansas


Op-ed by Marlou Wegener, BCBSKS Director of Community Relations; Mikayla Hermesch, BCBSKS Community Relations Specialist; and Heather Krull, BCBSKS Community Relations Specialist

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’” As National Volunteer Week approaches, it’s a great time to recognize the invaluable contributions of volunteers across the state and to renew our own commitment to service.

Kansas is full of great people doing great things for others. It’s who we are – it’s what we do. In fact, we are ranked 8th in the nation in formal volunteering.

At Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS), service isn’t just a buzzword; it’s a fundamental part of our identity as a company. In fact, in a recent engagement survey, 92% of our employees said our organization is involved with the communities in which we do business and 89% of employees said our organization encourages its employees to volunteer in the community. We like to say we’re Kansans serving Kansans. Our success is intrinsically tied to the well-being of the communities we serve, and this motivates us to prioritize volunteerism and community engagement initiatives throughout the year, not just during National Volunteer Week. And your business should, too!

Whether it be employee giving campaigns, hands-on service opportunities or corporate giving, there are plenty of opportunities for the business community to benefit their friends and neighbors and we should be doing more. According to a recent U.S. Census Bureau and AmeriCorps survey, formal volunteer participation dropped 7 percentage points between 2019 and 2021 to 23.2%, no doubt in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But have we recovered? Local non-profits are saying their numbers have begun to bounce back.

The United Way of Kaw Valley’s Vice President of Strategic Initiatives Jessica Barraclough notes that they have seen an increase in engagement over the past couple of years. Corporate volunteerism has followed a similar pattern with more organizations reaching out to organize programs and projects.

But why should local businesses emphasize corporate volunteer programs?

Social Responsibility
Post pandemic, today’s workers want to know that their company has a strong value system. They want to feel a sense of purpose behind their job and the company they work for.

According to recent analysis from Glassdoor, this year Gen-Z is expected to overtake Baby Boomers in the full-time workforce. And a study by WeSpire found that Gen-Z is “The first generation to prioritize purpose over salary. They read mission statements and values documents to select where they work and want their employer’s values to match their values. They expect consistency and authenticity and will call you out, often publicly, if they don’t see it. They will leave companies they believe are hiding or putting too much spin on bad news, ignoring their negative environmental or social impacts, or that have toxic workplace cultures.”

Team Building
In today’s work-from-home and hybrid work environment, providing volunteer opportunities for team members helps employees learn more about each other and build stronger bonds through a shared sense of meaning and purpose. But with employees not all in the same location, that can make organized volunteer efforts difficult. Make sure that you offer an option for remote employees to join in on the fun, whether in person or through a virtual option like making cards of encouragement that could be printed by the company and delivered to local nursing homes or by making an Amazon wish list available for an in-person collection of school supplies.

Rita Patrick, BCBSKS Customer Experience Representative, has volunteered her time on numerous occasions. “I enjoy working with other employees of the company and working for the community. Volunteering for me personally provides another outlet to assist the community at large and I feel as a company we should do all that we can to help the people in our community.”

Recruitment and Retention
The Society for Human Resources Management notes that approximately 26% of employers offer paid time off for volunteering. That number will only continue to grow as the number of younger workers, and their passion for purpose, increases.

BCBSKS employees happily took full advantage of our corporate volunteer policy in 2023, spending more than 3,600 hours giving back across the state.

“I am grateful to work for a company that values serving our communities and provides an opportunity to volunteer to make a positive impact on those around us,” said Judy Bradley, BCBSKS Inside Group Sales Supervisor. “Giving back provides a sense of purpose, community and it feels great to know that you’ve made a difference.”

April 21-27 is Volunteer Appreciation Week. Use this as the perfect opportunity to find and support the causes that inspire your employees and support your company’s mission. Let’s all do our part to make Kansas the best place to live, work, play and volunteer!