Skills-Based Volunteer Programs

Companies are increasingly looking for ways to involve their employees in different communities by inspiring them to volunteer. One of the more effective approaches that has been implemented by some larger firms is the concept of skills-based volunteering. Skills-based volunteering takes advantage of the unique talents of employees by pairing them with nonprofit organizations that can use their expertise. To understand this concept in detail one can look at the efforts of Morgan Stanley and IBM. Both have implemented effective programs that demonstrate the value that can be produced from well-designed volunteer schemes.

Morgan Stanley’s Strategy Challenge provides nonprofits with pro bono strategic consulting advice. Teams of talented employees are formed and paired with a nonprofit organization seeking expert advice on how to increase their impact in different communities. Each team is comprised of four Morgan Stanley employees at the Associate or Vice President Level as well as a Managing Director and expert in nonprofit consulting. Relying on an analytic approach, teams assess the most appropriate measures their nonprofit can implement in order to accomplish a series of goals. The eight-week project culminates with a final presentation in front of a panel of experts. The presentation details the actions each team believes is best suited to improve the productivity and impact of their nonprofit. The 2013 winner of the Strategy Challenge is exemplary of the impact Morgan Stanley is trying to achieve. A team helped Bring Me A Book, an organization dedicated to improving literacy in underserved Californians, expand their book access program with the introduction of digital media. The project did an excellent job orienting the nonprofit towards the future.

In total, Morgan Stanley employees have helped 77 nonprofits by dedicating 45,000 hours to produce 6.8 million dollars in value. But, these statistics only detail half of the equation. Morgan Stanley employees often leave the initiative having developed critical business skills and further contacts within the company. Skills like client management and communication are honed throughout the process. Most importantly, employees leave with an appreciation of the nonprofit sector and the satisfaction that comes with contributing to its goals.

IBM’s Corporate Service Corps is likewise an initiative that has received much praise in recent years. The company routinely sends 10-15 person teams of top management prospects on four week projects to address economic concerns in emerging markets. The goal is to provide local groups and governments with superb consulting advice developed through years of experience working on similar projects around the world. Communities can be sure they are making smart development decisions while IBM can be sure they are gaining knowledge of and improving their reputation in growth markets. It is a win-win for both parties and has brought positive exposure to some underserved areas of the world.

Skills-based volunteering is an excellent way to provide professional services to worthy nonprofit and government organizations that would not otherwise be able to afford them. It is a different way of thinking about the nonprofit sector that inspires employees to give back. Many are thrilled to learn that the skills they have developed in their professional lives can be used to help nonprofit organizations. This enthusiasm is shared by the charitable organizations who receive specific and productive help. The result is a fruitful alliance that excites both parties and highlights the power of skills-based volunteering.

Creating a Culture of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Your Company

When thinking of how to create a corporate social responsibility (CSR) culture inside of your company it is important to think about both the values of your company and also what CSR involves. In a general sense, CSR includes the parts of your business that do not have to deal with finance. Alexander Garrett of Management Today describes it as, “ethics; interactions with people inside and outside your company; and how you affect the planet” (Garrett, 1) in his article Crash Course in...Creating a CSR Strategy.

In terms of values, the social work that is done cannot go against what your company believes in. People will see right through your CSR report and begin to distrust your company; this means all of your consumers walk away. In a study done by Shital Jhunjhunwala, Assistant Professor of Finance, Institute of Public Enterprise, entitled Intertwining CSR with Strategy- the way ahead, there were social implications which claimed, “business cannot survive without society’s acquiescence nor succeed without its active support” (Jhunjhunwala, 1). For example, within a tech company, it isn’t wise to claim to love being green and being energy efficient if the products that are being sold use far more energy than other products on the market. This would demonstrate that not only do you not care about the planet, but you also think consumers lack the intelligence to find out that you are lying to them, not the best plan in any scenario.

Furthermore, while CSR initiatives have to start from the top-down, because nothing will be sustainable if the board is not supporting CSR efforts, employees have to also believe in the mission that is being encouraged. If the board decides that they want their employees to get a specific number of hours of volunteer work, ask the employees what they are interested in. If people are more interested in animals, begin a puppy and kitten initiative where they are able to support and volunteer with animal shelters; if they want to help the poor, create initiatives where they are volunteering at a food bank or building homes.

According to Garrett, these initiatives should not only come from employees but also customers and investors. It is important to know what people want from your company (Garrett, 1). One of the ways to do this is to be open with everyone, to never provoke sentiments that your company is untrustworthy. There are many ways to do this such as the use of social media. One of the methods that Garrett suggests is to give clear pieces of your CSR message but then also have ways for the public to see the full scale of all that you are doing. This could be a link online that leads to a full report of the initiatives that your business is taking. Along with being trustworthy comes accepting that the company is not perfect. It could be that the company never recycles and they serve every meal in Styrofoam. The important thing is also explaining how those behaviors are going to change. Let everyone know how you will do better but that it will take time and then explain to them your time frame for meeting different target goals (1).

Is this a step by step tutorial on how to make a perfect CSR culture? No. Every company is different and they will have to start small and find out what works best for their company, one does not simply know the best strategy for a CSR culture right away. This is just where to start, to find out how a CSR culture can work for both the company and society. The right CSR culture will do both and add value and sustainability to a corporation.


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