MLK’s Guidance Helps Corporations Gain by Giving

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Posted at: February 6, 2012 8:55 PM
by Margaret Bishop

Participating in community service activities is usually a personal decision that is rewarded with gratification or empowerment. Few people participate in community service for a monetary reward because, frankly, there usually isn’t one. For some major corporations, however, paid community service days throughout the year are becoming more common.

The Corporation for National and Community Service commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day by initiating a day of service entitled the “MLK Day of Service.” This day has now become a national service day thanks to legislation that was signed into law in 1994. According to a press release from the CNCS, corporations such as ARAMARK, Marriott and Target all participate in this day of service.

Furthermore, some companies participate in community service year-round. For instance, Walmart offers a unique opportunity to its associates by allowing them to donate funds to a nonprofit organization of their choice. This year-round service and donation of both time and money create and/or boost some of our nation’s leading corporations’ ethos and philanthropic efforts.

With that said, what do these efforts contribute to the companies’ overall image and PR efforts? I know that when I am asked the routine question, “Would you like to donate your spare change to help (specific organization)?”, I am always inclined to contribute and happy that the company is using its role in society to help others in need. Companies that participate in community service efforts pride themselves on their contributions to society, and whether that means including it on a brochure, website or annual reports — in my opinion, they should.

As PR practitioners, we are motivated to change three things amongst the public: awareness, attitudes and actions. By including community outreach in its mission, a corporation has the ability to influence those around it not only on a business level, but a personal level as well. I think these service initiatives may have bigger ideals than we may see on the surface: if everyone contributed a little more — whether that be at home or in the workplace — what would our world be like?

“Everyone can be great because anyone can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t even have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve… You only need a heart full of grace and a soul generated by love.”
—Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

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