When Stanley Litow helped set up IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, a community service program that doubles as a leadership academy, he never anticipated how popular it would become. Since its inception five years ago, the Corps has fielded more than 200 teams of about a dozen volunteers each. The program’s month-long assignments have included modernizing Kenya’s postal service and helping design an online education program in India. With thousands of employees vying for its 500 spots each year, the Corps has become a coveted perk: Alumni say it’s bolstered their job performance, skills, and desire to build careers at IBM, according to an internal survey. “This isn’t just about growing the business,” says Litow, who leads the company’s citizenship and philanthropic efforts. “It builds on our expertise.”
IBM’s 430,000 employees spent 3.2 million hours volunteering last year, honing skills while building goodwill. From P-Tech, a public high school in Brooklyn where students can earn an associate degree in computer science, to a global grid that pools unused computer processing power for the benefit of researchers, the company makes sure its philanthropic efforts align with its business objectives. That’s why IBM takes the top spot in The Civic 50, a new scorecard on America’s community-minded companies produced by Bloomberg LP in partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship and Points of Light, two nonprofits promoting volunteerism. Along with measuring community impact, “we want to see how well companies leverage the time and talent of their employees,” says Points of Light executive Jackie Norris.