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Corporate Volunteering Becomes Popular: There’s Good News, And There’s Bad News

Corporate donations to charities in the US are about to plummet by over 50 percent. Corporate America intends to make up the difference by growing their volunteer programs by (a staggering) 45 percent. That might do the trick, except…few businesses know what to do or how to do it well. On top of that, managers don’t know how to measure success. The world of business is facing significant challenges – and under the merciless scrutiny of the public, there is little room for misstep.

Corporate
donations to charities in the US are about to plummet by over 50
percent. Corporate America intends to make up the difference by growing
their volunteer programs by (a staggering) 45 percent. That might do
the trick, except…few businesses know what to do or how to do it
well. On top of that, managers don’t know how to measure success. The
world of business is facing significant challenges – and under the
merciless scrutiny of the public, there is little room for misstep.

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When
you were a kid, did you ever play that game with your friends where one
began a story and the other responded by alternating the phrases, “Oh,
that’s good” with, “No, that’s bad”? If I remember correctly, it would
go something like,

So my friend found 50 dollars on the street yesterday.

Oh, that’s good.

No, that’s bad – it belonged to a robber.

Oh, that’s bad.

No, that’s good – cause when he came back for it, the police got him.

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Oh, that’s good.

No, that’s bad – cause the police thought my friend was helping him.

And so on….

Ok well, the Conference Board in New York released a report today that has a bit of the game’s cadence to it. You can read the article here, but I’ve decided to re-tell it, for your entertainment.

So,
looks like this year almost half of the businesses surveyed have
reduced their donations to non-profits, with another 16 percent
thinking they may have to do the same.

Oh, that’s bad

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No, that’s fine – corporate donations in the US only account for 5.1 percent of charitable giving. A whopping 75 percent (229 billion in 2007) comes from individuals, anyway.

Oh, that’s good.

No,
that’s bad – corporations are also cutting back employment. Plus,
people have seen their savings wiped out by Wall Streets mismanagement
so, people have a lot less to donate as well.

Oh, that’s bad.

No,
that’s not too bad. It seems both corporations and individuals intend
to meet falling charitable expectations with volunteering. Apparently,
Corporate Volunteering is trending to grow by 45 percent this year.
Companies are going to spend more on facilitating employee
volunteering. It is intended to provide non profits with the kind of
skills that they may not be able to afford in this downturn.

Oh, that’s good.

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No,
that’s great. The lack of dollars may force corporations to form
meaningful partnerships with non profits to achieve socio-environmental
solutions that will benefit the community, the business and it’s
customers.

Um…wait, is that bad now? I think I’m confused…

No, that’s still good, but hard.

Oh, okay, um…

It’s
hard because apparently the biggest concern with Corporate Volunteering
is that most managers have no idea how to measure the results of their
efforts in community impact. That, coupled with a lack of understanding
of how to connect Corporate Volunteering with the company’s brand as
well as raise awareness means that companies may never fully realize
the value of the work their employees are doing.

Ok, wait, that is bad.

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No, that is very
bad. And I’ll tell you why – if you don’t understand the value of
something, it won’t mean anything to you. So if companies aren’t given
good guidance in this area – the area in which they’re hoping to use to
make up for the drop in financial donations – they may not actually
contribute very much to communities. Or worse, they will contribute
great meaning, but they won’t know it and their customers won’t know
it. In the end, it will just be treated like a ‘nicety’ that disappears
when it gets easier to write cheques again.

Oh, that is bad.

Yes, that is bad.

Ok,
so that’s the game (as I remember it). The point is, Corporate
Volunteering can play an important role towards ensuring the health of
our communities and the environment. Check out the article for yourself
and tell me what you think. Is business savvy enough to figure out
volunteerism? Or are dollars always better anyway?

About the author

At Realized Worth, we help companies connect with their communities. We do this through corporate volunteering and social media.

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