Why Nobody (really) Cares How Many Hours Your Employees Volunteered

Feb 10, 2011 10:15 AM ET

Realizing Your Worth

READ OUR BLOG HERE   Every week, scores of companies publish press releases about their community investment programs. Many have to do with financial donations, but more and more are written about employee volunteering programs.    While I am wildly enthusiastic about corporate volunteering, these press releases are a waste of time.   Press Releases: All the Wrong Info   First: Companies are talking about the wrong things through the wrong mediums. As I’ve mentioned before, most companies don’t understand how to “speak CSR.” What’s more, a press release is one of the least effective means of sharing this kind of information. (More on the irrelevance of the medium.)   Second: As far as I can tell, most companies don’t understand the purpose of their employee volunteer programs. Many corporations have an intuitive notion that volunteering is the “right” thing to do (morally) and that it is an essential component of their CSR strategy. Despite these sentiments, a recent report in the UK provides the following, eye-opening info: "most managers confess not knowing how to measure the benefits of volunteering was a barrier to encouraging employees to take part (38%).”    Outcomes vs Impacts   Instead of measuring the actual benefits, most companies report how many hours they spent painting walls, cleaning parks, serving food, teaching classes and raising money. These are not bad activities, they’re just....activities, a means to an end. Serving food does nothing to eliminate hunger. When people show up at a soup kitchen to hand out food, they are not making a dent in poverty.   I want to go on record at this point: Serving at soup kitchens is profoundly important. But one plate of donated food does not connect to the systemic injustice that creates and perpetuates poverty.   Here’s an example of what I mean: