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A Year of Public Service

It’s hard to see a light at the end of the economic tunnel these days, but at least there is a twinkle along the way: 2009 may just be the year of service.

As President-elect Obama, in conjunction with the Ad Council, announces his push for public service through TV and radio PSAs, Starbucks times its initiative to encourage community service among its consumers, one million hours worth, to coincide.  But let us not forget employees.  Employee volunteerism programs may be one of the first casualties of the down economy (if not in policy, at least in practice) as employees worry about saving their jobs and employers are concerned with making the books.  Yet, the benefits of employee volunteerism outweigh the scant investment by providing consistency where there may be little and by helping to restore goodwill and a sense of community among a dispirited staff.  Skilled volunteerism is also, according to Deloitte’s 2008 Volunteer IMPACT Survey, a highly cost effective, but underutilized, training and development tool.

The benefits could extend outside of the office walls, as well.  In the cases where current conditions have forced cuts in charitable contributions and have even sent matching gifts programs (which account for about 10 percent of total corporate giving) to the chopping block, employee volunteerism may be one last vestige of constancy to keep valuable corporate-nonprofit partnerships intact today and in the future.

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