Doing good as a recruiting mechanism for doing well

The Nonprofiteer received a note from Deloitte Touche’s public relations firm, alerting her to Deloitte’s efforts to recruit young employees by highlighting the firm’s involvement in charitable activities, particularly what it refers to as "the contribution of intellectual capital . . . including an active skills-based volunteer program."  This presumably means volunteering that involves the professional expertise of the person donating time rather than his/her ability to ladle soup at homeless shelters. 

This seems to be a good-news bad-news story.  The good news is that an outfit like Deloitte, with access to excellent demographic information (embodied in its own 2007 Volunteer IMPACT survey) and a profit motive for reading that information correctly, thinks it can attract young MBAs with the promise of opportunities to use their skills for good.  So we have a basis for hoping that young wealthy people will come into middle and old age not merely even wealthier but aware of the need to give back and familiar with useful methods of doing so.

The bad news is that this sounds a lot like the pro-bono craze of the late 1970s and early 1980s, during which law firms sought to recruit associates by emphasizing the firms’ uncompensated good-guy work–litigating civil rights cases or representing poor people bilked by credit card companies.  This may have attracted idealistic young lawyers, but the results don’t bode well for the Deloitte initiative.  First of all, of course law firms were actually much more committed to paying work than to the pro-bono kind–if they weren’t, they didn’t stay in business.  Second, the law students who’d found the promise of pro-bono so compelling soon morphed into standard-issue lawyers who did the minimum required by state ethics rules to discharge the bar’s obligation to serve the unrepresented.  So it remains to be seen whether Deloitte’s enthusiastic recruits a) get much of a chance to be philanthropic during working hours and b) remain committed to philanthropy as they age and move through the corporate snakepit–er, ranks.

But then there’s the good news (again), though a bit attenuated.  The Nonprofiteer’s determinedly contrarian law professors took delight in scoffing at pro-bono service requirements, asking whether it wouldn’t be more efficient (the right’s favorite word!) to have corporate lawyers donate money to legal services charities rather than climb the steep learning curve leading to effectual work in landlord-tenant or elder law cases.  If those faculty members were right–or at least persuasive–perhaps Deloitte’s employees will be moved to give more money to worthy causes just to escape having to give them time.   

Hey, it could happen.  It didn’t with lawyers of the Nonprofiteer’s generation, but those 60s kids were notoriously crotchety and money-oriented and self-absorbed.  Things are much better in these enlightened days*–and in this best of all possible worlds.+

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*Peter Weiss, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum at Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade.

+Voltaire, Candide.

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4 Responses to “Doing good as a recruiting mechanism for doing well”

  1. Sam Davis Says:

    I have always thought it was slightly sleezy, if not a lot sleezy, to sell something obliquely by selling something else.

    If Deloitte wants to attract enthusiastic, young MBAs, the company leaders should sell the firm’s main mission.

    Deloitte is a for-profit company. Nothing wrong with that, and they should sell everything positive about it.

    Meantime, with the misdirection going on, Deloitte may end up hiring some bright young MBAs who’d really rather be working at a nonprofit, but won’t figure that out for a year or so. That will waste their time, Deloitte’s time and whatever money spent on training them.

    The Nonprofiteer is right on the money (pun intended) on this one.

  2. Sam Davis Says:

    A second, perhaps more profound thought:

    There is so much organizational and human wisdom out here on the Internet these days, reflecting centuries of experience.

    Quite often here, and on other Internet venues, profound and truly wise observations and ideas are put forward.

    Why are organizational leaders and politicians not listening?

    It’s our culture, with its distortions, chief among them that our individual happiness, or lack of it, lies in what others do and is beyond our control.

    The reality, as a wise man named Gautama first observed several millenia ago, is that it is all within our control.

    Our leaders don’t listen because they start with that same assumption, built into our culture, which we reinforce. Among the other shakeouts from that is the leaders don’t listen to us because they mostly think we can’t possibly have anything of value to say.

    Only experts in Washington or at organizational “temples” could possibly know what to do.

    Excuse me?

    Anyway, keep up the good work, Nonprofiteer and other colleagues.

  3. Bill Dalton Says:

    Then, of course, you have the folks that leave Antioch (i.e., as in
    “Antioch College”, Yellow Springs – Ohio)
    with Horace Mann’s admonition ringing in their ears (actually “seared
    into their souls” …):
    “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”

    Sadly, we’re never sure whether he meant ‘one pro-bono case a week’ or
    ‘one-a-year’
    or maybe nothing but pro-bono cases and going
    door-to-door with a small rice bowl … .

    [Maybe that’s why they’re on the verge of closing Antioch =
    An endowment built on too much rice and too little $$ from
    it’s human victory-winning alums .. .]

    B. Dalton, Antioch’67

  4. Bill Dalton Says:

    No way you can tell, but I’m one of the ‘true believers’ (We
    carry saffron yellow rice bowls ..)
    who loves Antioch. I deeply fear its potential disappearance
    from the American Higher Education
    Scene would represent far more than just the closing of another
    small liberals arts college in the
    hinderlands. Antioch has a proud history as an incubator of
    academic freedom, educational
    innovation, real-world-based learning, and values-based
    education — rare commodities in a world
    where we ‘buy’ carbon offsets and hire someone else (an Antioch
    graduate??) to do our pro-
    bono tithing.

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