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The Best Gift a Nonprofit Can Get

What does pro bono look like?

Just imagine what would happen if we took the creativity of Google, the marketing capacity of Edelman, the logistics of UPS, and the strategic planning and consulting services of Deloitte, and applied that to the nonprofit sector. We could unleash the vast resources of corporate America to address urgent community priorities, from veterans and military families, to education and workforce readiness. While many think about giving back and transforming communities like this during the holidays, America’s favorite brands are seizing new momentum to lend their best skills, time and talent to nonprofits 365 days of the year.


In fact, since November of last year, 260 companies have joined A Billion + Change, a national campaign to mobilize billions in skills-based volunteer (SBV) services from corporate America. These businesses, from the largest in the Fortune 100 to the smallest mom-and pop stores, have taken the A Billion + Change pledge to create or expand a skills-based volunteer program in their workplace. Collectively, they have pledged $1.9 billion in pro bono services to help build nonprofit capacity to address community needs.
What does pro bono look like? Today, pro bono can take many shapes and sizes, harnessing employees’ marketing, IT, human resources, research, strategic planning or even computer programming skills.
For example, a young and energetic marketing team participated in a “Branding Blitz,” a 24-hour pro bono marathon session that was part of the Advisory Board Company’s Week of Service in October. After a ‘round-the-clock pro bono session, the team unveiled a new logo and tagline for New Futures, a nonprofit that offers financial and mentoring support to low-income youth in Washington, D.C.
On the West Coast, Deloitte’s pro bono strategic planning work for the Special Olympics of Southern California helped Los Angeles secure the winning bid to host the 2015 Special Olympics World Games. These services are often game-changers for nonprofits with scarce resources.
Companies like Capital One are stepping up to provide skills-based volunteer support to hundreds of nonprofit organizations. Capital One also convened a Nonprofit Collaborative of the nation’s leading experts on pro bono to create the Readiness Roadmap, a comprehensive online tool that provides nonprofits with guides, worksheets, and best practices to more effectively use and manage skilled volunteers. With $15 billion in pro bono services given to nonprofits this year, the Roadmap will help ensure that nonprofits are ready and able to make the most of their volunteers.
While the conversation about pro bono might seem like it’s dominated by large corporations, small businesses are also catalyzing change through skills-based service. For instance, the SISGI Group, a small consultancy in New Jersey, has created a virtual internship program that trains and manages interns from universities like Duke, Michigan, NYU, Hertie School of Governance, UC Berkeley, and Rutgers. The interns then provide project support to nonprofits, like the American Diabetes Association, in areas such as research, strategic planning, training and social media.
These are just a few examples of how companies are giving back through skills-based service, which can make a big difference in a nonprofit’s ability to achieve its social mission. For nonprofits, the value of skilled support in areas such as general operations, technology, and professional services can be five times greater than the value of traditional volunteering, according to True Impact.
Pro bono programs also make good business sense: They are valuable talent management tools that help businesses attract and retain talent, especially as millennials gravitate towards companies with strong corporate responsibility programs. They can also greatly boost a company’s reputation. In a recent survey of executives at Fortune 1000 companies, 88 percent of respondents said enhanced reputation was the primary motivation behind CSR initiatives, followed by competitive positioning and social consciousness.
So, if the holidays have you thinking about ways to give back, don’t forget that nonprofits and communities can use your skills and expertise 365 days of the year. You can join the growing pro bono movement and lead meaningful change by giving nonprofits the best gift of all—your time and talent.
Image via (cc) flickr user Kitten\n
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