are working with organizations to feed the homeless; In Charleston, North Carolina they will be reading to children at schools; In Albuquerque, New Mexico they are working with the Ronald McDonald House to provide home-cooked meals for the homeless. Across the board we have Allstate employees getting together with their family and friends to participate,” Turner says.
“Incorporating social service is an important part of businesses both large and small,” says Jeff Jones, program director of MicroMentor, an initiative of Mercy Corps, a global humanitarian organization. “I think corporations get a lot of attention, but small and local businesses are doing a lot more of this work than their corporate counterparts on a relative basis and can reap the rewards just like corporations can. [Customers] are more cognizant of seeking to support businesses with a social conscious. So being able to talk about what you’re doing for the local community and with the non-profit world is very important for people at all ends of the business spectrum.”
Companies, however, should realize that there are alternatives to traditional volunteering, which might involve working at a soup kitchen, planting trees, or painting over graffiti to beautify a community. While people are certainly needed for those activities, skills-based volunteering is an alternative that can allow one to leverage their professional expertise to assist a not-for-profit by helping them to build a Website, create a database, or implement a brand marketing plan.
MicroMentor is an online program that works with volunteers across the U.S. Its mission is to help traditionally underserved entrepreneurs– those who have less access to business development services, including groups such as women, minorities, recent immigrants, the poor, and the disabled. Jones says skills-based volunteerism can help a corporation beef up their pro bono efforts and keep their star employees engaged.
“MicroMentor was created in response to research from the Aspen Institute, a policy think tank, which found that micro entrepreneurs—those with five or less employees—thrive from one-on-one mentorship relationships, especially those that are industry specific or functional specific, like marketing and accounting, for example,” said Jones who started as a volunteer while exploring the world of micro enterprise development. He was brought on as a part time contractor and then joined as staff.
Currently, MicroMentor has a growing community of 900 business mentors and close to 1200 entrepreneurs who collectively have engaged in over 1,000 mentoring relationships, which occurred during 2008. The Taproot Foundation is another skills-based, business focused volunteering organization that packages service grants for volunteers to deliver services to non-profits
“In order for us to advance as a society people have to become involved,” King says. “It enlarges your vision of life and your appreciation of other people. It takes you out of the self-centered perspective where everything is about you.”
For more information on volunteering for Martin Luther King Day, visit MLKDay.gov.
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