Lead with Leverage

“The value of corporate involvement lies as much in expertise as it does in monetary support.“ – – Bill Gates

Sometimes volunteer opportunities are not challenging enough. There. I said it. Volunteers are looking for challenges and meaningful ways to utilize their talents. We all want this professionally as well as to be a core component to our volunteer experiences. Corporate America is an important partner is helping NGO’s leverage social capital. They just are not really sure how. So let’s help them.

Opportunities to create social impact will be greater if companies leverage employees’ workplace skills and knowledge. Yet not all companies are equipped to utilize the skills of all of their employees. Most corporations are used to writing a check but have very little experience in leveraging their company’s talent.

Traditional Business Motivations: Corporations have organized traditional volunteering programs that engage employees in a range of service activities, often with little consideration for the linkage to corporate strategy or the unique skills and assets of employees. The programs, if well done, can provide significant value to a corporation in terms of employee morale and a corporation’s reputation.  These employees are normally engaged in non technical service projects, like working in soup kitchens, or cleaning up parks. Very few corporate resources are used. They wear their corporate logo themed polo shirt and normally take a pretty awesome staff picture at the end of the day. Team building activity for the quarter. Check. Yeah Team!  I do not mean to be sarcastic because the work that these volunteers do and the funds that they donate are important.  I just know that a new model is needed.

Here is one way to help corporations leverage assets and resources.

Leveraging Model: Volunteering is aligned with corporate strategy. Corporations have a real plan for utilizing non cash resources. In this brave new world corporation asks employees, instead of just participating in service projects to be a part of solutions.  This provides that corporation and the employee with the opportunity to make more strategic choices about how service time is spent. Volunteers provide high-value services that have the potential for significant social impact, including change management, financial management, market analysis, or other business services. You know the skills that NGO’s normally pay outside consultants. These types of programs are normally smaller and targeted, but man they pack a big punch. You get more bang for your buck. Oh, and did I mention they are the perfect pipeline for leadership development with the corporation?

In a true collaborative  partnership the NGO and the Corporation identify the business motivations for volunteering and then develop programs to fit those goals. Whether corporations engage in employee volunteer engagement for traditional business motivations or strategic goals, identifying the appropriate business objectives is critical. While both types of motivations are important, companies need to identify what’s driving their work and work with NGO’s to design programs and outcomes accordingly.

Having a company’s name, employees, logo and reputation be one of community leaders, change makers or social entrepeneurship, will not only lead to happier  more satisfied employees, it will lead to happier customers and clients. I am not a business major but even I can see the ROI and it looks pretty darn good. Thats what I call a win/win.

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