Local or international pro bono
To go abroad or not to go abroad?
That is the question. Literally. That is the question Taproot Advisory Services hears from many companies as they consider their pro bono program focus. This single question begets many others, including: How do you decide where and when to go international? How do you best balance an international focus with a local one? How and where do you decide to double-down and make a concerted effort to affect your more immediate local environments and communities?
Spoiler alert: This blog will not answer those questions. But it will provide some more information about what we’ve seen when it comes to the international vs. local debate.
Let’s look at how the two sides play out.
International pro bono
Many companies have a global presence, and business priorities and employee engagement strategies can no longer be dictated from the US-based headquarters. Using pro bono to build a responsible corporate culture, an expectation of giving, and an employee ethos of community-connectedness is best done throughout any office, regardless of location. There are additional incentives, like India’s innovative CSR rulings, that propel companies to explore pro bono beyond the US. We’ve also seen global pro bono programs augment a company’s international grant-making by providing support behind the financial contributions to areas of need.
Domestic pro bono
I was recently at a Corporate Philanthropy conference in which a representative emphatically said, “Philanthropy is local.” For the local view, it’s about going deep. Identifying and addressing the needs in your own backyard. In San Francisco, this is particularly relevant among some corporations and start-ups who are designing their programs to be hyper-local. What does hyper-local mean? Sometimes a five-by-five block radius in the city. This particular focus may be influenced by their agreements with the city, but I say it is also a nod to their attempt to drastically influence and change the communities or neighborhoods they operate within on a daily basis. It connects their employees to the community in a way that could never happen during a simple morning commute. And that connection creates empathy, builds a sense of citizenship, and possibly lays the seeds for lasting partnerships and real, tangible change in the future.
So whether you’re asking whether to go broad or go deep, to go local or go international, or any variation of that pressing question, just remember that whatever path you chose, you’ve made a decision to act. And the decision to act is always the right one.