Guest Post: The value of volunteerismAugust 26, 2009: 2:02 PM ET
On April 21, President Obama signed the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act. What better day than today to spotlight businesses that reflect the late Senator's mission to expand national service. More and more companies--IBM (IBM), UPS (UPS), Target (TGT), General Electric (GE), Citigroup (C) and Pfizer (PFE), among them--are aiding not-for-profits by having their employees share skills. Done right, this sort of volunteerism can be win-win-win: image-enhancing for the company, morale-boosting for employees, and generally good for the world.
A Billion + Change ("Great Talent for the Greater Good") is the national program through which corporations pledge to expand their volunteered professional services to the nonprofit sector. Another member, besides the companies above, is Deloitte, whose CEO is committed personally. Here's Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg's take on the value of volunteerism:
Recently, I was sitting with several dozen inner-city teens, talking with them about college and careers. It was a free-wheeling conversation. I was peppered with questions--including, "How can I get your job?"
I left absolutely convinced that as a result of that session, at least one kid who otherwise would have missed going to college will, in fact, be going. Let me tell you, it made my day, if not my week.
And it reminded me of an often overlooked way to meet people's needs, particularly in these hard times as non-profit organizations are seeing double-digit drops in funding--as demand goes through the roof. I'm talking about skills-based volunteerism. That is, donating high-value, professional skills--for free.
Our company, Deloitte, recently conducted a survey on corporate volunteering. We found that 91% of respondents agreed that skills-based volunteering would add value to training and development, especially in fostering leadership and business skills. But only 16% of companies offer skills-based volunteering as an option for employees. Only one out of six.
Given the obvious need out there and also given President Obama's impassioned call for national service, we've gone way beyond surveying about volunteerism. We've pledged $50 million in services--that's right, $50 million worth of our employees' time--over three years to help non-profit organizations boost their effectiveness.
Deloitte employees are donating skills in such areas as IT, marketing and personnel management at all sorts of non-profit organizations. For me, education is a special passion. I wasn't the first in my family ever to go to college--my older sister claimed that honor. But I know what a profound difference it made in my life and in the lives of my two sons. So I work with a non-profit called College Summit.
College Summit, in fact, brought me and those inner-city kids together. The organization's goal: to take kids--many from families in which nobody has ever gone to college—and get them into college. The approach: Create a 'college-going culture' in high schools where college-going rates are low. We provide cash, lots of volunteer hours from our people, and pro bono work on systems that give principals and schools districts much better data about their students' progress.
Through personal experience, I've learned that skills-based volunteerism is one of those double bottom-line investments. It helps non-profits build capacity to serve more people with greater efficiency--which makes the non-profit more attractive for corporate support. That's the no-brainer benefit. The less obvious benefit is the real-world training for our people, especially our younger people. We do valuable, low-cost training and we also do some good for the world.
Barry Salzberg, with Deloitte for 32 years, has been CEO since 2007.