Corporate generosity: time, not just money
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''The CEO should state his feelings about volunteerism. Then others must do it throughout (carry out the goals). A program is most effective if it comes from the top,'' Mr. Goodman says.Skip to next paragraph
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Mutual Benefit Life is in the second phase of an advertising campaign called ''Give America a Hand,'' which spotlighted corporate volunteers - of other companies. The first phase of the campaign advocated volunteerism in general. The second phase is aimed at corporations themselves, making the argument that their employees will be better workers if they get involved in volunteer work.
The survey also found no rush to sign up volunteers for projects in response to President Reagan's call for more corporate involvement to fill the gaps caused by federal budget cuts. ''While most companies feel a need to do something, the economy over the past two years has been a deterrent,'' Goodman says. The survey further found that although ''image'' and a boost in employee morale are seen as key benefits of volunteerism, press recognition is not of prime significance.
''We decided, after seeing results of the survey, that the task is to persuade the CEOs who firmly believe in volunteerism, on one hand, but who say that they can't increase the budget, on the other hand, that there are other ways to do this (contribute to nonprofit organizations). It doesn't take a big deal,'' Goodman says.
Some observers suggest that nonprofit organizations could get more help from business if they learned to articulate their needs better. They are used to just asking for cash. What they really need may not be cash, though, but typing services, financial advice, office space, promotional artwork - which a firm may be able to provide quite inexpensively. ''Your art staff can find a few spare minutes to do a brochure for a nonprofit, for example,'' says Goodman.
''The artists get a kick out of what they're doing, and the organization gets something that it wouldn't get done right or would have to pay agency fees to get.''
The use of loaned executives as fund-raisers is another resource many organizations have not tapped. ''If a loaned executive worth $50,000 a year is able to raise $1 million for an organization, that's worth more than a $50,000 donation,'' one consultant notes.
Mutual Benefit Life has sponsored workshops for both corporations and nonprofits to ''build bridges'' in this way.
There are times, though, when there is no substitute for cash, and a stampede of volunteers will not help an organization about to fold. Alex Plinio, president of the Prudential Foundation and vice-president of the Prudential Insurance Company of America, says, ''There should be absolutely no misunderstanding that money will always be essential.''
There is a tricky aspect to all this: Corporate volunteerism, unless the company actually gives an employee time off work for it, is really individual volunteerism. In most professions a certain amount of executive overtime is simply part of the job. On the other hand, in this era of two-career families and otherwise complicated life styles, expecting executives to take on civic volunteer work as part of their jobs may make for an unbearable strain.
Asked about this, Mr. Goodman acknowledges, ''I suppose there's a potential for a problem.
''We discourage [pressure], and it's against the rules to insist that the employee do volunteer work.'' The company does, however, consider volunteer work in employees' professional evaluations.
But Jan Dauman, chairman of the Intermatrix Group, a consulting firm, says, ''I think a company has no right whatsoever to infringe on the free time of employees.'' Corporations can quite properly and helpfully encourage employee volunteerism, he says. ''But if there is any pressure to do so, that's morally wrong, indefensible. Encouragement, yes; pressure, no; recommendation to volunteer, no; and if there is any suggestion that (volunteering or not) might influence their evaluation, absolutely not.''