Business Serves Local Communities: Doing Well by Doing Good

For the next three days, more than 6,000 leaders from the corporate, nonprofit and public sectors will gather in New York City to develop strategies on how we can collaborate to strengthen our communities through volunteerism. The National Conference on Volunteering and Service is the largest gathering of volunteer leaders from across the country. It will be a time to learn, connect and explore how companies, nonprofits and government officials can make our volunteer programs more effective and valuable to the neighborhoods in which we live and work.

We believe corporate citizenship and volunteering is a fundamental American value
and our aim at this year's conference is to further this belief by raising awareness and
motivating volunteers.

For those of us in the corporate sector, this is a key moment in time to carefully assess the reach and success of our employee volunteer and corporate social responsibility efforts. The concept of corporate citizenship - the belief that companies have an obligation to actively maintain the health and well-being of the communities in which they do business - has formally existed in the United States since the early 1950s. Yet the past decade has brought a more sophisticated understanding of what corporate citizenship, through volunteerism, can achieve. Corporate volunteerism is not just "the right thing to do," but a critical business imperative that can generate significant value for a company, its employees and the community.

The bottom line is that as a corporation you don't just "do well," you "do good." We help those who are in need; we transform schools into safe, engaging learning spaces; we revitalize waterways and parks; we make our communities better places to live. This is important work. Yet, even greater returns on our volunteer investments are possible when using company time and resources in this way.

We see corporate volunteerism as a way to not simply demonstrate the existence of company traditions and standards but translate them into visible action, adding value and depth to a firm's image and ensuring that its external reputation is aligned with its internal principles and ideals.

Additionally, customers value corporate citizenship. The 2004 Cone Corporate Citizenship Study showed that eight in 10 Americans said corporate support of causes wins their trust in that company, a 21-percent increase since 1997, and 84 percent of consumers surveyed felt that using company resources beyond charitable dollars (e.g., employee volunteerism time) is an effective way to combat social and environmental issues. (Cone Shared Responsibility Study, 2010).

Corporate volunteer programs also make a difference internally. We have each seen, and surveys have shown, that these types of programs not only help attract and retain high-caliber recruits, but they also serve to foster teamwork across diverse ranks of employees, build morale and increase job satisfaction. Finally, when managed purposefully, these programs allow employees to develop new skills that prove useful in their professional roles, skills that return to help the company in immeasurable ways.

The "Main Street" nature of Wall Street's work - local ownership and local leadership - positions such firms to succeed on the ground where volunteerism happens. JPMorgan Chase is committed to promoting volunteerism and involvement focused on the needs of the communities where we operate and where our employees live and work. To formalize this commitment, we created a volunteer leadership structure in 2008 to promote and support community service and, in 2009, we planned and led more than 800 volunteer activities for the firm's employees nationally.

As the largest volunteer network in the nation, HandsOn Network, the volunteer-focused arm of Points of Light Institute, continues to find and foster growing interest in service among the corporate sector. We know that companies that embrace their employees' desire to volunteer and incorporate community service programs into their business practices ultimately strengthen the communities in which they live and work. The truly innovative corporations will go a step further, leveraging the power of service to transform their way of doing business. In doing so, they will weave corporate citizenship into the very fabric of our nation.

William Daley, Vice Chairman, of JP Morgan Chase & Co. Michelle Nunn is Chief
Executive Officer of Points of Light Institute.