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Corporate volunteering has been shown to have a positive impact on work environments, foster employee loyalty and enhance the reputation of firms

At least 55 per cent of U.S. companies, and perhaps as much as 80 per cent, are involved in some form of corporate volunteering. In Spain the numbers are lower, but they are expected to increase during the next few years.

A study of corporate volunteering among Spanish companies finds that 57 per cent of those with more than 500 employees engage in some form of corporate volunteering, with six out of every 10 interested in doing so.

Corporate volunteering has been shown to have a positive impact on work environments, foster employee loyalty and enhance the reputation of firms.

However, as is made clear in a paper by Victoria C. Moreno Manrique, chairwoman of corporate social responsibility and corporate governance at the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa at the University of Navarra in Spain, corporate volunteering should not be introduced solely for those reasons.

The driving force should be community support, and any benefits resulting from this effort are a bonus.

For corporate volunteer efforts to be successful and yield benefits, there must be a concerted effort and resources available.

They must be based on what Professor Sandalio Gomez of the Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa calls “the five Cs”: clarity, consistency, communication, credibility and confidence.

First, define what needs to be done: What does your community need, and how can your firm be part of the solution?

Local governmental agencies and nonprofits can help to identify the needs. By doing this, for example, Unilever discovered that cleaning up a local forest area was a much higher priority than planting more trees.

To inspire participation, it also helps to know what causes your employees are passionate about.

A survey of Iberdrola employees led the company to launch a variety of initiatives to reflect the wide range of interests among them.

Once you have settled on a cause, the funding and human resources available will determine how the programme is run.

In other words, the type of activities sponsored by multinationals will be different from those of smaller companies with more limited resources.

In addition to defining what to do, companies must be consistent in how they do it, specifying goals and metrics for each. Continuous evaluation is one of the key factors for ensuring an effective and meaningful impact.

This means measuring inputs, such as resources allocated and volunteer hours, as well as outputs such as the impact on society and employees.

For example, in providing environmental education to primary-school and secondary-school students, the U.K. energy company Eon measures schools’ energy consumption before the start of the project and again six months later.

Internal communication channels are useful for gauging employee interest, providing information about how the volunteer programme will be structured, rolled out and developed, and sharing the results as they are being achieved.

External communication channels allow customers and other external stakeholders to express their opinions about where the company should get involved.

There is nothing wrong with using them to promote the programme, so long as the company focuses on the development and social impact of the programmes themselves.

As the volunteer programme grows and develops, and as the results are reported in a transparent manner, the company eventually will gain credibility and win the confidence of employees and community stakeholders alike.

Current financial conditions, owing to the global economic crisis, are affecting some companies’ ability to sustain their volunteer efforts, even when their commitment to social responsibility remains strong.

With resources scarce, such programs are being scrutinised ever more closely, making the previous steps even more important, given that the programs that will continue to be supported are those that are able to demonstrate their worth.

Moreover, volunteer programmes that are consistent with the company’s mission tend to produce more tangible benefits and have more continuity over time.

From IESE Insight

© The New York Times 2013

© 2013 Instituto de Estudios Superiores de la Empresa, IESE Universidad de Navarra

As the volunteer programme grows and develops, and as the results are reported in a transparent manner, the company eventually will gain credibility and win the confidence of employees and community stakeholders alike.

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