Seize the day, even if it’s a holiday

Most government offices, businesses and nonprofits close for Martin Luther King Jr. Day – but the day has become more than just a break from work. Lately, businesses across the country have amped up their volunteering to mark the event. Nonprofits have had to make a hard choice between taking the day off to observe the federal holiday or staying open and bringing in extra help to support a one-day influx of volunteers.

We had that tough choice in mind as we planned Allstate’s 2012 Give Back Day, our annual program to honor Dr. King’s legacy by engaging our employees and agency owners in volunteerism alongside community members across the country.  We wanted to make sure those we called to action could find meaningful opportunities and nonprofits with open doors.

So, this year we added a new twist by working with VolunteerMatch, a trusted Allstate partner, to create a campaign that encouraged nonprofits to use MLK Day as a chance to turn one-time volunteers into lifelong advocates, volunteers and even donors. The idea was simple: Post a volunteer opportunity occurring on or around Jan. 16, and the community service organization would have a chance to win one of five $1,000 Allstate grants. The results were gratifying: On Jan. 16, more than 1,250 Allstate employees and agency owners, along with 600 community volunteers, devoted their time in 45 cities throughout the nation for Give Back Day.

By building our nonprofit partners’ capacity to build relationships with new volunteers and providing financial support to help them accomplish their missions, we helped inspire more than 208 nonprofits – a 70 percent increase from 2010 – to participate in this year’s MLK Day activities. This boost helped spark relationships with new volunteers and make an impact that could last beyond a single day.