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.+