Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Busting Myths About Corporate Volunteering

As an introduction to the 2010 National Conference on Volunteering and Service being held in NYC right now- Michelle Nunn, CEO of Points of Light Institute and William Daley,Vice Chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co.William wrote an excellent account in this weekend's Hufington Post about the current direction in corporate volunteering and serving community: "Business Serves Local Communities: Doing Well By Doing Good." They highlighted the importance of corporate volunteerism as both an old tradition in American corporate culture as well as a new wave of creating shared value within the community.

This brought on a slew of cynical comments based on what I think are some myths about the mix of corporate goals and doing good. I don't mind questioning motives of businesses in their "Doing Good" practices, since I have done so on my own blog here, as when KFC partnered with the Komen for Cure, in their Buckets For the Cure Campaign. This kind of scrutiny is a good thing as it keeps businesses focused on their true philanthropic and social repsonisibility goals and keeps them mindful of the impact of their philanthropy for the recipients and for their own business.

This last week I participated in a meeting hosted by the Bay Area  Corporate Volunteer Council and by the Bay Area Entrepreneurs Foundation. The main topics of the gathering were: Employee Development, Rewards and Recognition, and Skills Based Volunteering. Participants in this meeting included representatives from large companies such as: Intel, Hewlett Packard, AT&T, and smaller ones like NetSuite and Technology Credit Union. This gave me an opportunity to hear of the many approaches of corporate volunteerism that businesses use and their benefits to both the business and the community. These programs served as examples that could bust any of the following myths about corporate do-goodism and making money as an impossible mix,

Myth #1. Businesses can't be trusted to "Do Good" without having purely selfish motives. 
Most businesses acknowledge that volunteerism, CSR and corporate giving is great PR and a great way to build a relationship with a community and yes, hopefully that may translate into good business. Businesses not only do not hide the fact that they gain benefit, but see it as a win-win for everyone in building a thriving community.

Myth #2. Employees don't get their jobs done while wasting time on volunteering.
 In fact companies also reap huge benefits of volunteerism in training and development of their employees, team building, building morale, and recruitment. The result is more productivity on the job.

Myth #3. Employees have to volunteer on their own time. 
Pro-bono and skilled based services are types of volunteering that are paid for by the company and are often the most costly volunteer services for the company. Many companies offer long term employee services to non-profits. Many volunteer hours are during work hours as many projects such as food or toy drives are on company premises. Employees who have started their own volunteer project at work, have often parlayed that experience into a full-time community relations position at that company, running volunteer programs as their full time job. Some companies offer time-off from work as rewards for community service.

Myth #4. Corporate bosses leave the volunteering to the employees.
Many executives are well known to sit on boards of non-profits where they bring to the table their knowledge of strategy and management.One company reported that their executives are required to sit on non-profit boards as part of their corporate responsibilities. Many executives work hand in hand on volunteer projects with their employees showing corporate support of these efforts.

Myth #5. Companies substitute volunteerism for monetary support of the non-profit. 
Studies have shown that corporate volunteerism translates into monetary contributions to the non-profits that are served. Several companies have Dollar for Doers programs, where volunteers hours are added up and a matching amount of money is donated to the volunteer's designated charity.

I look forward to following the sessions at the National Conference for Volunteering and Service, particularly the corporate volunteering sessions, for some more myth busting examples of corporate volunteering.

Businesses have arrived at a new era of responsibility and service to their communities and are challenging the idea that business cannot be focused on creating shareholder value and on the community benefit as well.

1 comment:

Chris Jarvis said...

Great article Lalia! I think you're right. Many of the participants at the conference were coming from the non-profit side of things and were concerned about business making a business out of volunteering. But the points you make are clear as to why it's important to dispel these misunderstandings.

In particular, I think it's important for non-profits to understand that as the business benefits from volunteering, they will invest more resources over a longer period of time. An outcome that every NPO I know would love to see happen!

Thanks for the article. I'm going to put it on our Realized Worth Facebook Page.