Developing Mastercard’s pro bono program
Many months ago, we began meeting with Mastercard’s pro bono program planning team, which included all-stars from their philanthropy and human resources functions. Our goal: Build out the company’s first-ever pro bono service offering. As with the beginning of any collaboration with a company that’s building out a pro bono initiative, we asked, “what would success look like for you,” MasterCard’s response was two-fold: 1) build a program that would deepen their social sector impact; and 2) create a one-of-a-kind experiential career development offering for employees.
With these clear goals in mind, we set out to develop something completely unique: the MasterCard Pro Bono Challenge. This two-part pro bono service initiative paired 29 highly-skilled MasterCard “Pro Bono Consultants” with six nonprofits–including ACCION East, Girl Scouts of the USA, Junior Achievement of Greater New York, Pro Mujer, Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship and Women’s Enterprise Development Center, Inc. –in intensive capacity building projects that spanned strategy, marketing and communications, technology, and finance. Projects began with a hands-on preparatory process during which project teams got an in-depth understanding of their nonprofit client’s need and situation. Then, over the course of one a project session, Pro Bono Consultants worked hand-in-hand with their clients to develop a final deliverable that the nonprofit could use to deepen organizational capacity and performance. Sample outcomes included: a financial model that could be used to inform and expand a program, a framework for an enhanced internal technology system, and a concrete plan to increase local participation in service offerings.
Build a pro bono program to last
The Pro Bono Challenge wrapped-up yesterday. Already, we’ve reflecting on several things that MasterCard did particularly well throughout the planning and execution of this initiative, which we’ve recommend to any company that’s developing a program that’s built to last:
- Double-down on Existing Philanthropic Investments: To achieve their first objective of deepening social sector impact, MasterCard recruited a set of nonprofit organizations aligned with their philanthropic priority of financial inclusion through entrepreneurship and empowerment of women and youth. While traditional grants support these nonprofits operationally, the Pro Bono Challenge used another key company asset –its talent–to develop organizational capacity in a way that financial support alone could not accomplish.
- Preparation is Power: MasterCard’s Pro Bono Consultants connected with their nonprofit partners and internal project teams to develop some initial perspectives on the project before their day-long project session. Teams reported that this prep, which included initial calls with the nonprofit organization, team meetings, and reviewing key nonprofit documentation, offered them a deeper sense of the challenge they were addressing, helped them to gel as a team, and gave them some time to develop an initial plan of action before meeting face-to-face with their nonprofit clients.
- Partner Up: To achieve their goal of building a unique career development offering, MasterCard needed the expertise and hands-on support of their Human Resources (HR) department. Responsible for talent management and development, HR became enthusiastic and essential players on the project team. HR recognized pro bono as a career development opportunity for their employees and knew that pro bono work with nonprofits was a setting that would push their employees to stretch and grow.
- Get Leadership Onboard: MasterCard knew that the Pro Bono Challenge would be most successful if it had the backing of influential leaders within the company. So, early on, they brought in David Deacon, Chief Talent Officer, as the Executive Sponsor, helping to promote and galvanize support for the effort at the senior-most level of the company. And they invited members of the Executive Team to the final presentation of project deliverables, so that they could see what the MasterCard teams had produced.
With two departments, Philanthropy and Human Resources, leading the effort to implement pro bono, MasterCard set themselves up for success. What transpired as a result of this unique partnership was truly inspirational. Six nonprofits had the opportunity to work with teams of MasterCard employees with the skills needed to help them tackle their most pressing organizational challenges. The nonprofits walked away with a customized solution and the MasterCard employees left with an experience that deepened professional repertoire as they continue to develop at the company.
In working with MasterCard over the last several months, Taproot has been impressed by the company’s ability to balance their goals of nonprofit impact and employee career development. MasterCard’s approach is a bright spot for Taproot as we continue to help companies develop and implement pro bono at its best.
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