By Susan Schuster - Senior Community Relations Consultant

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What I learned from #crew52 (reflections from a Blue Cross volunteer leader)

April 13, 2018

In honor of National Volunteer Week, we’re handing it off to Susan Schuster, senior community relations consultant for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, who acts as the company’s corporate volunteerism champion.

In addition to leading employee volunteering efforts for Blue Cross, Schuster is on the board of directors for HandsOn Twin Cities, was 2017 president of the Corporate Volunteerism Council- Twin Cities and serves as board adviser and past board chair for the Karen Organization of Minnesota. 

Needless to say, she knows quite a bit about the what makes volunteering so important and meaningful. Here’s what she had to say.

Volunteerism on steroids

The Blue Cross mission is to make a healthy difference in people’s lives. One of the ways we do that is to provide employees with 20 hours of volunteer paid time off (VPTO) per year, encouraging them to use that time to support charitable causes they are passionate about. Employee volunteering is a visible and tangible part of our company culture.

In 2016, when Super Bowl LII announced the need for 10,000 volunteers, many Blue Cross employees (myself included!), were definitely interested. In addition to genuine interest in the opportunity, I also saw it as a research project— a giant experiment in joining many people together and rallying volunteers. I knew I could learn something valuable in the process.

It may not seem obvious, but the choice to volunteer is actually a very personal decision. Time is one of our most valuable assets, and some people want to use that asset well through volunteering. No matter what reasons lead someone to volunteer, we as a community have a vested interest in volunteers – they make our community stronger and healthier.

The characterization of Super Bowl VII week as “volunteerism on steroids” hits all aspects of what is sometimes termed volunteerism– whether for charitable, civic or social reasons, thousands of volunteers raised their hands to help out.

Someone who steps up (or, ahem, volunteers) to work extra shifts at an event like Super Bowl Live is also likely to go the extra mile on a key project, coach their local youth soccer team and donate his or her time at a neighborhood food shelf. These people are superstars!

SB52 volunteering shows commitment to Minnesota communities

As a nonprofit health company, Blue Cross focused on giving through the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee Legacy Fund, providing $100,000 in grant funding and volunteer support to the Willmar Destination Playground. This grant was part of the 52 Weeks of Giving campaign, a year-long effort that enabled over $5 million in statewide investments to help improve the health and wellness of young people in Minnesota.

Crew52 volunteerism was not a company or charitable project, but in true Blue Cross fashion many employees stepped up to join in this once in a lifetime experience. This type of community volunteerism is valuable for energizing and inspiring people to get involved.  The memories of chanting, “BOLD NORTH!” on Nicollet Avenue and welcoming visitors to our community live on as catalysts for the next invitation to volunteer.

“Someone who steps up (or, ahem, volunteers) to work extra shifts at an event like Super Bowl Live is also likely the to go the extra mile on a key project.”

Volunteering with work reaps benefits

Workplace charitable volunteerism is becoming a more common business strategy. It brings a great deal of benefits to the volunteers themselves and to the community. The old saying that you get more out of it than you give is most definitely true when it comes to volunteering.  Whether you are seeking connection, meaning, new experiences, leadership opportunities, teambuilding or a creative outlet, volunteering provides benefits beyond expectations.

To learn more about workplace volunteerism at Blue Cross and the many ways our employees make a difference in the lives of Minnesotans, see our  Report to the Community.

To learn more about how innovative onsite corporate volunteering can lead to healthier communities and engaged employees read more here and here.

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