Walking into the 30th floor of Thomson Reuters on Corporate Day of the Global Pro Bono Summit, the room was literally aglow. The light was almost blinding—floor to ceiling windows the carpet with sunshine, enhanced by the reflection of Times Square and New Year’s Eve ball. And the buzz of attendees chatting with new and familiar faces was equally bright.
The Global Pro Bono Summit allows us to focus on one of our favorite outcomes of pro bono—connection. That connection usually happens through high-impact capacity-building work between nonprofits and employees. But at the Summit, we have a rare opportunity to zoom out and draw connections in the broader field. Corporate Day at the Global Pro Bono Summit was built on this idea of connections, looking at pro bono as a piece of a company’s broader philanthropic puzzle. And through this lens, we encouraged practitioners across companies and industries to collaborate and innovate with their peers on how we can truly maximize the impact pro bono has on our communities.
Here are a few takeaways from the day:
- The path forward is paved by partnerships. The importance of cross-department and cross-sector partnerships came up repeatedly. In addition to ideas around effectively building relationships and working with HR (“complimenting and complementing,” as one attendee suggested), others underscored the importance of framing nonprofits as partners in creating a solution and not just as recipients of a service. Attendees also highlighted how orienting towards partnerships can help with the “the inherent power dynamic” that can occur with pro bono.
- Storytelling is a “must-do,” not a “should do.” As one speaker noted when reflecting on the growth of her company’s pro bono program, “we have stories that we are constantly pushing out to senior leaders—giving them anecdotes for their back pocket so they are reminded of how powerful this work is.” Credibility is key to expansion; the best way to demonstrate the value of pro bono is to regularly showcase the wins, look for external validators, and consider that informal stories are often as valuable as formal communications.
- Empathy is critical to a company’s success. A few attendees noted that some of the most valuable soft skills developed by employees through pro bono were related to understanding of the constraints an external group faces, and how to effectively work within them to achieve a goal. Many companies find their work is becoming increasingly cross-functional, requiring employees to successfully partner with new people or teams. Pro bono service has allowed employees who often work in siloes to collaborate with individuals from other departments and get comfortable delivering results in a new environment.
- Pro bono service must feel accessible to employees. There is a growing appetite for purposeful work at companies, and some have responded by creating pro bono opportunities for all types of employees. Whether it’s short or long-term engagements, one-day opportunities, or other virtual pro bono, effective and highly-scalable programs provide opportunity for employees with different constraints and varied levels of experience to participate. And as one company mentioned, engaging a few early career employees has been an effective strategy for building in pro bono service as an expectation of career growth and leadership at the firm.
Corporate Day at the Global Pro Bono Summit was a day of connection in action. As the sun fell behind buildings and the final session closed, we toasted to change, raising our glasses to this goal in the last rays of the day. It was the perfect reminder of why we do this work: to shine light on the importance of cross-sector collaboration in social change and, ultimately, to brighten the communities where we live and work.
Register now to attend our Global Pro Bono Summit Recap Webinar on Thursday, June 27, to dig into these takeaways and more.
Photo credit: Jenna Bascom Photography