Corporate donations to charities in the US are about to plummet by over 50 percent. Corporate America intends to make up the difference by growing their volunteer programs by (a staggering) 45 percent. That might do the trick, except few businesses know what to do or how to do it well. On top of that, managers don’t know how to measure success. The world of business is facing significant challenges – and under the merciless scrutiny of the public, there is little room for misstep.

When you were a kid, did you ever play that game with your friends where one began a story and the other responded by alternating the phrases, “Oh, that’s good” with, “No, that’s bad”? If I remember correctly, it would go something like,

So my friend found 50 dollars on the street yesterday.

Oh, that’s good.

No, that’s bad—it belonged to a robber.

Oh, that’s bad.

No, that’s good—cause when he came back for it, the police got him.

Oh, that’s good.

No, that’s bad—cause the police thought my friend was helping him.

And so on…

Ok well, the Conference Board in New York released a report today that has a bit of the game’s cadence to it. You can read the article here, but I’ve decided to re-tell it, for your entertainment.

So, looks like this year almost half of the businesses surveyed have reduced their donations to non-profits, with another 16 percent thinking they may have to do the same.

Oh, that’s bad

No, that’s fine—corporate donations in the US only account for 5.1 percent of charitable giving. A whopping 75 percent (229 billion in 2007) comes from individuals, anyway.

Oh, that’s good.

No, that’s bad—corporations are also cutting back employment. Plus, people have seen their savings wiped out by Wall Streets mismanagement so, people have a lot less to donate as well.

Oh, that’s bad.

No, that’s not too bad. It seems both corporations and individuals intend to meet falling charitable expectations with volunteering. Apparently, Corporate Volunteering is trending to grow by 45 percent this year. Companies are going to spend more on facilitating employee volunteering. It is intended to provide non profits with the kind of skills that they may not be able to afford in this downturn.

Oh, that’s good.

No, that’s great. The lack of dollars may force corporations to form meaningful partnerships with non profits to achieve socio-environmental solutions that will benefit the community, the business and it’s customers.

Um… wait, is that bad now? I think I’m confused…

No, that’s still good, but hard.

Oh, okay, um…

It’s hard because apparently the biggest concern with Corporate Volunteering is that most managers have no idea how to measure the results of their efforts in community impact. That, coupled with a lack of understanding of how to connect Corporate Volunteering with the company’s brand as well as raise awareness means that companies may never fully realize the value of the work their employees are doing.

Ok, wait, that is bad.

No, that is very bad. And I’ll tell you why—if you don’t understand the value of something, it won’t mean anything to you. So if companies aren’t given good guidance in this area—the area in which they’re hoping to use to make up for the drop in financial donations—they may not actually contribute very much to communities. Or worse, they will contribute great meaning, but they won’t know it and their customers won’t know it. In the end, it will just be treated like a ‘nicety’ that disappears when it gets easier to write cheques again.

Oh, that is bad.

Yes, that is bad.

Ok, so that’s the game (as I remember it). The point is, Corporate Volunteering can play an important role towards ensuring the health of our communities and the environment. Check out the article for yourself and tell me what you think. Is business savvy enough to figure out volunteerism? Or are dollars always better anyway?

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