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Building a Culture of Service and Innovation at Your Company

Imagine if your employer (or you, if you are the employer) announced a company-wide contest to win $15,000. The challenge? Volunteering your skills and talents to help build a nonprofit’s capacity to address a social issue.

Imagine if your employer (or you, if you are the employer) announced a company-wide contest to win $15,000. The challenge? Volunteering your skills and talents to help build a nonprofit’s capacity to address a social issue.
That's just what the Advisory Board Company has done. It issued a challenge to have 100 percent of its employees participate in service.
As soon as he heard about the challenge, Jason Hugo, an Advisory Board consultant, was excited to participate. “I’ve always been an entrepreneur, and to date that passion has been focused exclusively on building my own businesses," he said. "However, I love the idea of taking this entrepreneurial spirit to drive toward a social good, and already have at least one idea that combines my passion for business and entrepreneurship with providing a social benefit."
The Community Impact Innovation Challenge is part of a broader effort to create a culture of innovation and impact at the firm through service.
Graham McLaughlin, Director of Community Impact, the firm’s volunteer and community engagement program, puts it this way:
We want to enable every employee to make an impact, in whatever way fits each person’s skills, interests, and life best. However, we also want to challenge employees to step outside of their current comfort zone to understand the great need that is out there, and how they can make a meaningful difference in being part of the solution. We’re doing that in a variety of ways—by developing an internal website to make it easy for someone to identify meaningful and enjoyable service opportunities to holding educational sessions on social justice issues to launching this social innovation challenge to help the most motivated and innovative leaders in our firm design expertise-based solutions for social issues.
The motivation, talent, and social consciousness the firm’s volunteers demonstrate is already striking. Take Manasi Kapoor, a health care researcher and Community Impact Lead. Manasi convinced the firm’s Research & Insights Division to begin holding an optional “think-a-thon” following their quarterly team meetings. “I wanted to enable our team to take what we’re good at, research, and what we’re passionate about, improving health care and public health, to do something meaningful,” she said.
Through these “think-a-thons,” volunteers sign up for one or more 30-minute research intervals, and use their core research skills to provide best practice guidance to non-profits. At their most recent meeting, researchers helped Mercy Health Services, a community health clinic based in Nashville, qualify for the 340b drug program. The step-by-step analysis on how to qualify and sign up for the program enabled Mercy to reduce its own drug costs as well as those of its patients, enabling greater care at a lower cost.
The Advisory Board team’s analysis, which they were able to provide in about two hours, would have taken the Mercy team at least 10x as long. Emmitt Beall, CFO of the firm’s Nashville office and former Board Chair and current Treasurer of Mercy, said qualifying for this program “positively impacted the bottom line by over $100,000,” and David Winningham, CEO of Mercy, characterized the impact as “transformative for patients and the center.”
“Our goal is that through the Innovation Challenge, and other strategies we’re pursuing to create a culture of impact, we can inspire and support all employees in designing ways to help nonprofits like Mercy that best fit their skills, interests, and station in life,” said McLaughlin.
The Innovation Challenge winner will be announced in October, 2013 during the firm’s annual meeting. Check back in December for a full profile on the nonprofit makeovers made possible by the Advisory Board’s Community Impact Innovation Challenge.
The Advisory Board has taken the A Billion + Change pledge, committing its skills and talents to serve the needs of communities at home and around the world. Together, A Billion + Change pledge companies are inspiring the largest commitment of pro bono and skilled volunteering in history. Has your company taken the pledge? Learn how at
Go here to add pledging 1 percent of your time to service this year to your "To Do" list.
Clock image via Shutterstock

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