Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Community Service Means Business

With the growing national stress caused by low wages, income inequity, hunger and attacks on civil rights, a new “Fact of Life” imposed by the business  community—not government or governmental agencies—will tackle and solves many of these social ills early in the 21st Century. 

Business has the power
Here’s one recent example.  For weeks, Indiana Governor Mike Pence (R) talked about and then signed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act which allowed businesses in his state to discriminate against LGBT folks. Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO, took umbrage at the move and stated loud and clear that he would take his business and staff elsewhere. A number of Marc’s powerful CEO friends—Apple and PayPay for starters—talked about pulling the plug as well right after Gov. Pense signed the bill.
Marc Benioff, Salesforce CEO

In the very next week Gov. Pence signed an updated version of the bill where no discrimination of LGBT folks was allowed in Indiana. Then a very expensive international public relations firm was hired by the state to fix the extensive damage Gov. Pence’s illogical law caused to Indiana’s business environment.

Businesses usually hire lobbyists to influence legislators and legislation. It’s an expensive and time consuming process keeping managers out of the limelight. This time, however, it only took one powerful, principled voice—with a little help from his friends–a week to make a major change and protect the civil rights of all Indiana citizens. Turns out taking tax money and jobs away is a more effective way to bring about change than forking over a bunch of cash to governmental decision makers.

Will business continue to utilize its new found power?
In the past individual business owners have stood up and championed ideas such as Arianna Huffington’s Third Metric concept which is attempting to “redefine success beyond money and power.” Arianna is the co-founder and editor in chief of the Huffington Post.

Then there is Howard Shultz, Starbucks CEO who encourages his company, managers and staff “To be innovators, leaders and contributors to an inclusive society and a healthy environment so that Starbucks and everyone we touch can endure and thrive.”

What is important to understand at this juncture is the future of real change and the evolution of real humanitarian ideals will only take one business leader imbued with high road chutzpah to lead the way. And it appears right now that Marc Benioff is that person. On April 23, 2015 he announced that he implemented a program to insure that women’s pay is equitable with men’s pay throughout his entire company. There is no doubt that other progressive business leaders will join him in his quest to make things right. This will only embolden Marc Benioff to do more to make things better in America.

Such a unified business force could then circumvent politics and fix the roads, fix the educational system, fix the voting system by simply moving their money and their companies to states where the roads are repaired, educate is a priority and equality in all things is the order of the day. To help build those corporate relationships businesses should turn to something they and their companies are already deeply engaged in … community service.

Taking Community Service to the next level
Most top executives in the Fortune 500 engaged in nonprofit activities such as board membership and charity events. This philanthropic networking is good for the bottom line. Likewise, many of their human resources managers understand that people who volunteer are more physically and psychologically healthy than those who don’t. In addition, community service participants are more honest and make better customer service representatives. For this reason, HR departments across the country now view volunteer experience to be as important as paid experience.

These companies also encourage their employees to get involved in community service and the companies themselves sponsor community service programs or special fund raising events. The end result is employees at such community service minded companies are happier, more productive and like their companies more.

On the consumer side, customers tend to favor companies that get involved in community service work which in turn influences their purchasing decisions.

Arianna Huffington, co-founder
and editor in chief, Huffington Post
So it stands to reason that all of these positive responses to community service can and do effect costs and profits. The bad news side of this very positive business strategy is, there is no unified approach to community service. Each company is expected to just figure something out and press forward, implementing programs suited to its needs.

Getting Community Service Under Control
 What would happen if the accountability of volunteer work hours in community service organizations across the country were standardized?  In addition, what would happen if all corporations required all of their job applicants to present a standardized certificate of volunteer service? The answer is as simple as the concept. America would become a better America.

Establishing a New “Fact of Life”
 The Franklin Project, an initiative dreamed up by General Stanley McChrystal proposes a one-year community service conscription program (draft) for our youth. Alan Khazei, the co-founder of City Year, an AmeriCorps national service program, picked up the McChrystal gauntlet and is fostering a one year “rite of passage” service program.

Community Service is a wonderful idea but this “conscription” concept will never work because it will require huge amounts of government funding and government control. In addition, today’s youngsters are into the freedom and connectivity of technology and do not need a military-like “band of brothers and sisters” experience to feel connected to their peers. They already have a universal connectivity that never existed before.

Over Looked Fact
Drafts generally target the working class because their numbers are great and their ability to resistance is predictably low. On the other hand, people of means are often able to take advantage of most exemptions or they can count on their wealth to tip the scales in their favor. 

Creating An Empathetic Future for America
What young people need—rich and poor alike—is a new “Fact of Life” requirement to prepare them for the many varied responsibilities of adulthood. For instance, they need a high school diploma or a college diploma to land a lucrative job. They need to pass a written and driving test to get a license to drive. These are just a “Fact of Life” in America. They can do them or not. If they fail to participate, their work options are somewhat limited.

The Twenty Eighty Community Service Program
 A new “Fact of Life” starting in 2016 for young people (Age 6 and up) will be a standardized Certificate of Community Service they earn and then present as part of the job application process. The program is called the Twenty Eighty Certificate of Community Service. (Twenty Eighty is derived from one American work week. 40 hours x 52 week = 2,080 hours.)

How the program works
In pictures ...
Corporations commit to promoting national community service by stating that in 2016 they will require each new job applicant to have a Twenty Eighty Community Service Certificate when applying for a job.  

Corporations join together to create a small Twenty Eighty Community Service accrediting organization that standardizes volunteer community service certification.   
The accrediting organization retains a tech company to manage the certification process and establish a database.

Students and citizens of all
ages begin acquiring hours of community service under the new Twenty Eighty program. When they accumulate 2,080 hours of service they will be awarded a certificate.    

40 hours per week x 52 weeks = 2,080 hours

Beginning in 2016, the Twenty Eighty Certificate will be part of the job application process for all participating corporations.

In words …
  1. Major corporations establish and fund a Twenty Eighty Community Certificate Accrediting organization. This organization will have a very small staff, perhaps 4 people at most and will cost between $200,000 and $500,000 per years. Annual fees from member corporations will offset these costs.
  1. The Accrediting organization will establish operational and governing rules and a database of those applying for and those receiving Twenty Eight certificates. A contracted firm will manage the database of nonprofits and volunteers and the printing of certificates (digital or paper). These costs too will be paid for with corporate membership fees. Note: Non profits and volunteers pay no fees.
  1. The Accrediting organization will contact and register nonprofit organizations around the country. If they agree to comply with Twenty Eighty requirements, they will receive a free membership and printed/digital certificates to distribute to their volunteers.
  1. Volunteers who wish their nonprofit or charity to be recognized by the Twenty Eighty organization can submit a request for accreditation.
  1. Beginning in 2016 all member corporations will require the Twenty Eighty certificate for new hires.
  1. Corporations with fewer than 100 employees will be allowed to join without paying an annual fee.
  1. The membership allows access to view the database on the Twenty-Eighty website.

SPECIAL NOTE: The organizational and operational details given here are preliminary. Once the Accrediting organization has been created, more exacting processes will have to be established.

A Win-Win-Win-Win Situation

Community Service is an extremely beneficial activity
for all involved.

o  Customers often make decisions to buy products based on a company’s participation in local and national charities.

o  Companies engaged in community service are better liked by their employees

o  Productivity and morale is enhanced when employees are encouraged to participate in community service projects.

o  More empathetic employees develop better customer service skills

o  Those employees who engaged in community service are generally healthier and happier than those who do not. This affects productivity and company medical costs.

o  Nearly all schools today—grammar and secondary levels—participate in “Service Learning” during the school year. The reason is students devoting time to volunteer work earn higher grades, are able to focus better, exhibit “positive lifestyle choices and behavior, have higher self esteem and are generally more satisfied with their lives.”

Senior Citizens
o  Study after study focusing on the physical and mental stability of senior volunteers consistently find “lower mortality rates, greater functional ability and lower rates of depression later in life.”

It is often said, the business of America is business.

Since that statement, too, is a “fact of life” in the United States, then all of the businesses in the country—large and small—should adopt the standardization of Community Service. It is an intelligent approach to not only maximize profits and productivity, but help millions upon millions of needy citizens in a more cost-effective way. 

Public Domain
The Twenty Eight Program is in the public domain. Please feel free to take this proposal and make it a reality.

The Franklin Project, a program at The Aspen Institute is studying ways to create a "voluntary civilian counterpart to the military service in the United States."

Get Involved. The Impact and Benefits of Serving. Corporation for National and Community Service


The Health and Benefits of Volunteering. Corporation for National and Community Service

Volunteering May Help Your Career More Than You Think. Brazencareerist.com


Volunteer Work and Well Being. National Institutes of Health

The Benefits of Employee Volunteer Programs. Junior Achievement

Harvard Business School Social Enterprise Series No. 2
Making Business Sense of Community Service
Harvard Community Service study

Deloitte Volunteer IMPACT Research