Over the next few months, Director of Programming Carol Guttery will be contributing a series based on Making Pro Bono Work: 8 Proven Models for Community and Business Impact, a white paper released by Taproot identifying multiple unique ways that organizations can adapt and deliver pro bono service to address a variety of social issues and business goals. She will be spotlighting organizations that successfully exemplify each of the eight models.
Getting the best from your employees by sending them away. Far, far away.
That’s a driving principle behind IBM’s Corporate Service Corps program. This program sends IBM employees into an intensive 6-month global pro bono engagement. The cross-border engagements are designed to provide technology-related assistance to local governments and community organizations. In this highly competitive program, thousands of applicants are whittled down, and 500 IBMers per year participate in the program. IBM recently celebrated its 1,000th employee deployment –to support database and network stability projects in Ghana.
Getting the best from your employees by keeping them close.
That is the driving principle behind Microsoft’s United Way Loaned Executive Program. In this program, 4-6 employees are selected and loaned full-time to the community affairs department for the four month-period surrounding the annual employee giving campaign. The United Way runs these programs in many markets, such as Los Angeles . Microsoft’s variation on the theme is to have the employee stay on campus, working with the local volunteer campaign coordinators to educate and involve Microsoft’s 50,000 US employees in the annual campaign.
What these two programs have in common is their use of a Loaned Executive model of pro bono service. Taproot’s 8 Models of Pro Bono also highlights Pfizer’s Global Health Fellows as another example of this loaned employee model of service.
What is common among these programs is that an employee is loaned out for a specified period of time to work on a pro bono project. All of the programs have an application and review process for choosing candidates. And they all offer preparation and training for the engagement. The companies report back similar benefits in the form of enhanced employee skills, improved flexibility and innovation, and employee retention. However, each program also offers unique business benefits back to the company. IBM’s program provides the company with greater business knowledge of the host countries. And, while the program is expensive relative to other types of volunteering programs, it is less expensive than cross-border employee transfers with some of the same benefits in regard to expansion of cultural literacy and global business acumen. Microsoft’s program helps employees strengthen their internal knowledge and networks and also provides a huge boost to United Way’s community affairs staff capacity during the busiest time of the year.
My personal passion is for global volunteering. I’ve been on three Earthwatch expeditions and love nothing more than a wet passport stamp. That said, I’m really intrigued by the Microsoft model. Their context is particular to the annual giving campaign, but consider the broader potential. Using internally loaned staff on a full- or part-time basis could greatly expand the capacity of small community affairs departments. That expanded capacity could support more strategic philanthropy programs or provide oversight of more wide-scale skilled and pro bono volunteering programs. I like the leverage.
Carol Guttery is the Director of Programs at the Taproot Foundation.