"Yes we are taking it to absurdity. I recommend more absurdity...Movement from true volunteering may seen uncomfortable, a sense that something is absurd is required to being novel"
Now before anyone jumps out of their Employee Volunteer office chair, is it important to explain that she is advocating that businesses can create much higher impact in the community by leveraging the core strengths and assets of the business, rather than by duplicating the traditional fundraising and extra hand volunteering that any other business or non-corporate volunteers engage in.
Her suggestions may seem radical, and so she acknowledges that these changes need to be small at first and that both types of volunteering can co-exist.
She gave some great examples of companies doing just that, companies such as:
Hasbro which has has focused all their employee volunteer programs around children's causes.
Health insurance company Aetna brings along employee volunteers that hold blood drives when the company visits college campuses for recruitment.
Levi's,which ties their corporate volunteer day on May 1st with their 501 jeans line.
Timberland,( my favorite story), has what Bea described as an intangible asset, an employee mentoring program within the company where senior managers would mentor junior managers and so on. By using this intangible asset they apply the same skills and performance evaluation to mentor underprivileged youth in local community leadership development program.
As an added bonus we got to hear a presentation first hand from Louise James of Accenture about their Accenture Development Partnerships, their exemplary worldwide community engagement and development programs.
Bea does not leave us dangling in the air about how to go about making these "absurd" changes. She outlines specific steps any company can take make these changes in her report:
The End of Volunteering: A Necessary Step to Substantive Employee Engagement in the Community
The beauty of this message is that small businesses can take advantage of these forms of volunteering and maybe even better than their larger counterparts. Small businesses may think they cannot have a large impact on the community because they cannot provide enough extra hands for fundraisers and activities like serving meals. But they too have assets, the kinds that Bea has suggested for large corporations such as: specialized expertise; intangible assets like employee skills and corporate programs for employee development; and hard assets like trucks, buildings and even blue jeans! They too can match their core business with charities that are focused on a similar population.
I support Bea's suggestion of being more "ABSURD" as it means any number of things: thinking outside of the box, being more disruptive, more innovative and creative. That is the way of the future for all forms of business philanthropy including volunteerism and possibly the best way to create positive social change.