Mobilizing volunteers

Deloitte deploys greatest strength at community level.

By Ret Boney

Deloitte & Touche USA donates a significant amount of money to charity. But it believes the more important measure of its philanthropy is the donation of its people’s time.

“We need to lead with our core competency,” says Evan Hochberg, the accounting and consulting group’s national director of community involvement. “There’s a sense that our people are our greatest strength, and that’s the greatest way for us to make a difference.”

That belief has infused the corporate culture, leading two of every three of its accountants and business consultants to participate in the company’s 2006 annual volunteer day.

Called IMPACT Day, the event was held June 9 this year and involved more than 22,000 people working on 575 projects in more than 100 communities.

One in five of those projects were skills-based, says Hochberg.

Rather than painting rooms or building playgrounds, some accountants and consultants donated their time to help nonprofits with real business problems.

“Nonprofits are businesses, and usually on the mission and program side, they are extremely savvy,” he says. “The challenges they face are more on the business side, like growth, marketing and infrastructure issues.”

Not only do those donated hours benefit nonprofits and the communities they serve, Hochberg says, but Deloitte also sees a strong business case for the effort.

“Corporate community involvement has a double bottom line – a social impact and a business value for the company,” he says. “Those are completely connected and interrelated.”

Employees who participate in skills-based volunteering build their professional expertise, he says, and have an opportunity to work in teams that cut across the functional departments of the organization.

They also build networks that help the company.

“If you’re out there on a board volunteering in a deep way, your ability to meet community leaders or people from other companies is really great,” he says.

Then there’s the “halo effect,” or the boost it provides in recruiting and retaining valuable employees, says Hochberg.

But he says he believes those benefits to the corporation are primarily fortunate side effects.

“The social impact of strengthening the capacity and infrastructure of the nonprofit sector is what it’s all about,” he says.

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