Every year, Net Impact hosts an international conference convening professional and student chapters to creatively tackle social and economic change through a business lens. This year 3,000 participants gathered in San Jose, California to share ideas and best practices for driving impact. Taproot Foundation led a session titled Pro Bono Champions: Translating Your Skills for Nonprofit Consulting. Of the 60 attendees, the majority were students or early career professionals interested in learning how to introduce social good into their career trajectory.
Millennials’ concern with meaning and purpose
This makes sense as millennials are driven by socially responsible careers. According to Stanford Graduate School of Business, graduating MBA students at 11 top business universities value corporate responsibility so highly that when evaluating potential employers graduates are willing to sacrifice an average of 14.4 percent of their expected salaries to work at socially responsible companies. Net Impact’s 2010 study also shows a high level of commitment to social impact, 84% of undergraduates planned to seek socially responsible work immediately upon graduation and the number keeps rising. These are just a few of the statistics that support the facts: the incoming workforce wants to be a part of something good.
This is good news for companies because skills-based volunteering can offer huge rewards. Engaged employees offer 16% higher profitability, 18% higher productivity, 12% higher customer loyalty and 60% higher quality work. To add to this, skills-based volunteering can generate over 400% more value for nonprofits and communities than traditional volunteering. Skills-based volunteering is a win-win-win offering personal satisfaction for employees, increased productivity for companies, and increased value for nonprofits.
Pro bono as a win-win solution
It may be confusing as a newbie to find pro bono opportunities within a company, however. Here are the tips we offered early career professionals as well as some tips for companies to support their efforts:
- Does your company have a skills-based volunteer program?
- New employee: Identify existing programs within your company. Talk to Human Resources, Corporate Social Responsibility / Community Relations, and your manager. When speaking with them consider: does your company have a time release policy for volunteering? Who will be a mentor or champion for your pro bono project?
- Company: Help a newcomer navigate the organization and find a mentor or champion to support their pro bono ventures. If a pro bono program exists, help them learn how to get involved.
- If not, look to the community.
- New employee: Find a nonprofit organization that you??e passionate about and talk to the organization?? leader. Identify their most pressing organizational needs and exactly what projects could address those needs, build a workplan and timeline, and define what expertise is needed to complete the project.
- Company: Direct employees seeking pro bono opportunities to existing nonprofit partners and help them set up an initial conversation.
- Build a team.
- New employee: Determine the number of team members needed and identify colleagues with the expertise needed to complete the project. Set up a time to review the workplan and set expectations for commitment before introducing the team to the nonprofit partner.
- Company: Support recruitment and outreach to help build a team.
- Kick-off the Project.
- New employee: Use your workplan to define the phases, activities, and deliverables of each step of the process, then agree upon the defined scope of work with your team and nonprofit partner. Oversee the entire process to ensure timely completion of the project. Recommended phases include: Kick-off, Discovery, Drafting & Revisioning, Delivery & Training, and Assessment & Closing.
- Company: Set up regular check-ins and learn from the project to inform a pilot program. Identify how the program can be scaled and improved for additional employees.
Encouraging early career professionals will benefit the employee, the company and the community. Support employee efforts to grow professionally and engage with existing or new community partners. If you have a program already in place, help them learn how to be effective pro bono consultants. If you are exploring the possibility of kicking off a program, use this opportunity to start small and learn how to turn one engagement into a pilot. For additional resources, you can find tools and best practices in Taproot Foundation “Powering Pro Bono” toolkit at www.taprootfoundation.org.