This shouldn’t be innovative, but it is…

In Lieu of Money, Toyota Donates Efficiency to New York Charity is a fantastic example of skills-based corporate volunteerism done awesome. The New York Times reports:

At a soup kitchen in Harlem, Toyota’s engineers cut down the wait time for dinner to 18 minutes from as long as 90. At a food pantry on Staten Island, they reduced the time people spent filling their bags to 6 minutes from 11. And at a warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where volunteers were packing boxes of supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy, a dose of kaizen cut the time it took to pack one box to 11 seconds from 3 minutes.

Skills-based volunteerism and corporate volunteer programs have been around for ages.

But they’re generally not done well. Organizations limit volunteer roles requiring professional skills to their boards of directors, and corporate volunteering often involves intelligent professionals painting walls.

“They make cars; I run a kitchen,” said Daryl Foriest, director of distribution at the Food Bank’s pantry and soup kitchen in Harlem. “This won’t work.”

In a research project 27 Shift completed for Volunteer Canada in 2012, we found that organizations engaging corporate volunteers were most commonly doing so in a workplace fundraising capacity. Unfortunately, there is often short-sightedness and protectionism when organizations explore skills-based and/or corporate volunteerism.

Sometimes this type of volunteer engagement is met with resistance: unionized environments protect certain duties, staff don’t want to give up interesting work, or staff feel threatened by a volunteer with more experience than they have. (From Building the Bridge for Volunteer Engagement, Volunteer Canada and 27 Shift, 2012).

This really shouldn’t be New York Times newsworthy, but it is. Maybe if organizations see the potential media exposure, they’ll finally get on board?

“It’s a form of corporate philanthropy but instead of giving money, they’re sharing expertise,” said David J. Vogel, a professor and an expert in corporate social responsibility at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s quite new.”

New only because it’s done well. It shouldn’t be innovative, but it is.

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