Hints for building a volunteer bridge between business and community
New York — ''The face of volunteerism has changed drastically,'' says Robert R. McMillan , vice-president for public affairs at Avon Products Inc. ''It is not reserved for the rich or those who have leisure time to spare. Today, all over this country you find that the busiest people, those who carry the dual responsibilities of job and home, are still making the time to fight for a cause , help a neighbor, or support the efforts of young people. Our employees, and our retirees, are certainly answering this call for more citizen action.''
Mr. McMillan says the business community can have a part in the new spirit of volunteerism by applying a portion of its resources to the concerns of volunteers. ''We can do this with money, but we can also do it by providing in-kind services like printing, duplicating, or computer time. We can host meetings and conferences of nonprofit organizations. We can donate used furniture or equipment, or excess inventory, and we can offer management assistance to help solve the technical or managerial problems of community groups and voluntary agencies.''
Volunteerism, he points out, builds many bridges between business and the community. He finds that employees who volunteer for a cause that helps preserve and protect the community are generally more productive and satisfied employees. They grow in the skills and understanding that benefit both their companies and their communities.
Mr. McMillan says Avon's 10-year-old volunteer program has been tailored to fit the needs of that company and its employees. From the Avon experience, he offers the following 'jidelines to other corporations:
1. Establish a volunteer support policy and communicate it clearly, from the top throughout the company.
2. Integrate voluntary-action concepts into company operations through the management team. For example, put community service on your appraisal forms for all employees.
3. Create a management technical assistance program, which can offer expert help to city or community agencies, upon request.
4. Set up practical volunteer support concepts. These could include a special fund to support employee volunteer projects, a ''matching gifts'' program whereby the corporation matches the money donations of employees in their gifts to charitable organizations, or a sharing of company resources such as computer time, printing and duplicating services, etc.
5. Cooperate and work closely with government and professional groups fostering volunteerism. Exchange ideas with other corporations.
6. Start small. Let employees tell you their concerns and help shape the program. A good corporate volunteer program, Mr. McMillan points out, ''offers help to the helpers.''