Once a week, David Luke tutors a teenager in his office at InStyle magazine. Joan Connelly and 20 or 30 co-workers from BankBoston spend a Saturday each month sorting food for the poor.
Committed to their communities both during and after work, Luke and Connelly are the faces of the new corporate attitude toward giving.
Instead of throwing dollars at charities picked by the boss, companies today are more often urging employees - including top executives - to roll up their sleeves and volunteer.
In an era when communities are in need, many employees are demoralized and corporate reputations count more than ever, it’s an investment that many companies consider worthwhile.
And that’s a plus for the Presidents’ Summit for America’s Future, a three-day effort opening Sunday in Philadelphia, seeking to galvanize the nation to help young people.
As part of the event led by President Clinton and former President Bush, more than 200 companies are pledging to their communities millions of volunteer hours along with goods from playgrounds to health care.
“The corporations are critically important to the summit,” says Bill Shore, leader of a task force evaluating the company pledges. “Corporations have the resources to foster and stimulate more volunteerism.”
Increasingly, they are doing just that. Today 75 percent of companies have an employee working full-time on community relations, up from 9 percent in 1987, according to a survey by the Center for Corporate Community Relations at Boston College.
Nearly 80 percent of companies now have a volunteer program and one-third give time off for volunteer work, according to the Center.
In part, companies are stepping more deeply into the community arena because, as government programs are slashed, the needs are greater. And, as the summit illustrates, companies are being pressured to do more.
The corporate appetite for good public relations is, if anything, increasing as consumers and investors pressure companies to be better corporate citizens.
But beyond image-making, companies are discovering direct economic benefits from volunteerism.
After a decade of downsizing, volunteerism boosts morale and helps companies attract employees, says Dan Salera, director of community service at BankBoston.
Such programs “give corporations a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining an employee base that will stay and be committed and feel good about where they’re working,” says Salera.
Joan Connelly understands the underlying benefits that come from her volunteer work at BankBoston. But mostly, there’s one reason she and her co-workers do it.
“We always walk away saying, ‘I feel really good,”’ she says. “It’s great.”
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