Celebrate National Volunteer Week and Create Chemistry in Your Community

By Martin Horrocks, BASF North America Seed Treatment Director

Martin Horrocks

To state the obvious, 2020 was a year of significant change. In how we work, how we live, and in how we give back. We all worked hard to settle into our new virtual world, and we began to see and experience all the areas where this new environment would change how we engage with each other.


When crisis strikes, we hope that humans will come together and support each other. The precautions in place for the larger part of 2020 made that a challenge. American Singer, Dionne Warwick said, “We are all here to be a service to those who can't be a service to themselves. We can give people hope and more reasons for being human.” I believe in service, service to others and to the environment. And I am privileged to work at a company where volunteering is embraced and encouraged.


As a senior leader at BASF Agricultural Solutions, I serve as the executive sponsor of our community outreach employee resource group. Our company, as many did, pivoted quickly and identified new ways to support our employees in volunteering activities through virtual environments.


A recent article in the Harvard Business Review stated that, “more and more companies are discovering that when they integrate volunteer programs with their corporate giving plan, it’s good for their business. Research has shown that these programs improve employee satisfaction, foster employee engagement, and boost retention. For instance, the Macquarie Graduate School of Management (MGSM) found that 93% of employees who volunteer through their company report being happy with their employer, and 54% of those who are proud of their company’s contributions to society are engaged at work.”


That’s important, but at BASF what’s more important is that we are creating chemistry in our communities. As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, it’s an important reminder to companies to take inventory of the impact we’re having in our community. In our organization we focus on local communities (where we live and work) but also make sure that we have some broader national focus areas for our outreach that align with our skills, expertise and business so we can have maximum impact. Our national focus areas include:


  1. Science and Ag Education
  2. Food Security
  3. Diversity and Inclusion
  4. Sustainability


We try to select partners and programs that fit with one of these three focus areas. We feel an inherent connection to these subjects because of the ag business that we’re in and it enables us to leverage our expertise in a way that promotes maximum impact for our communities and those we aim to serve.

Feed A Growing Population 

Our world is growing, and we are expected to reach a population size of 10 billion by 2050. We will have to feed all those people. Yes, I refer to nutrition of the body, but also the mind and the community.


One of our most expansive partnerships is with Feeding America and it is an increasingly important aspect of our work both within the community and our business. Food security is a top priority for us and our customers. As an example, every summer when school is not in session, we see children go hungry because they do not have access to what sometimes is their only meal. This past year, we saw that occur year-round as our children were remote learning. The USDA reports that in 2019, almost 14% of households with children were affected by food insecurity. Many of our local food banks held food drives to help these children get access to the food they needed. 

Working with local food banks is one way BASF addresses food insecurity in our communities. Here I am with my team back in 2019 at the Foodbank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. In 2020, BASF took its efforts online and hosted a virtual food drive in response to the food insecurity challenges created by the pandemic.

With our local food banks, we have we have held group volunteer events to sort food, package meal kits. When we were able to engage in person, we enjoyed hosting larger events like Sort-A-Rama where we helped package bulk food into family size portions. We even brought the Food Bank to our company parking lot in the past and held a Yam Jam where we sorted a dump tuck of fresh sweet potatoes from a local farm into family size portions. Many of our employees have also served as board and committee members at many food banks across the U.S., which is also an opportunity for service that can be done virtually.  Last year, we were able to engage in a large event virtually where BASF hosted our own virtual food drive that raised $429,000 which is equal to 4,290,000 meals.


BASF is also a big supporter of science education and specifically targeting experiences for ag education. We have numerous opportunities where we invite local teachers to our campuses to learn and experience what we are doing so they can take that back to the classroom. And we typically encourage our employees to get into the classroom and teach using our Kids Lab materials. This year was different, and a lot of our employees were scratching their heads on how to volunteer virtually. 

Activate Good - Virtually

As corporate citizens, it is our job to activate in our communities. Our community outreach group had to reinvent itself this year and develop new opportunities and ways to get involved. We focused on virtual volunteering, and we worked with employees to identify ways to be active with their local community groups.


Here at our headquarters in Durham, N.C., we are fortunate enough to have access to Activate Good. This organization is a force multiplier, a platform where people can identify all sorts of ways to get involved in giving back to their community and to do right by other people.  I love this platform because it connects real needs with real people, and there are ways to help and to get involved without ever having to leave your own home.

Some additional ideas for virtual volunteering:

  • What skills do you have and how can you offer those to a non-profit? For example, do you have legal expertise, social media skills, video? Call on your favorite organizations and see if they need help.
  • Do you speak multiple languages? Offer to help translate documents.
  • Need more ideas? Good Housekeeping published this list of 21 organizations and ideas for virtual volunteering. 


Over the last twelve months, I like many people I know, have spent more time in front of a computer than any other point in my life.  Volunteerism, whether virtual or safely in person, is an incredible way to really re-ground yourself in what matters.  Take a break and allow yourself to be inspired.  Not only do you give a lot, you will get a lot from it too.  There’s a therapeutic aspect to it that maybe only serving your community can bring.


I am calling on all corporations and businesses to use this week to review your corporate volunteer opportunities and make sure that you are engaging and supporting your employees and communities both virtually and in-person. National Volunteer Week is a time when non-profits often recruit volunteers and it’s the perfect time to create opportunities for your employees to give back.


Join #NationalVolunteerWeek 

Last Update Apr 22, 2021