Like early corporate philanthropy, pro bono services offered by the leading consulting firms often appear to be more opportunistic than strategic. They are driven by requests and partner interests. As a result, it is hard to evaluate their collective impact or to tell a compelling story about the pro bono work being done across the country.
In the last 10 years, corporate philanthropy programs have professionalized their efforts to be more focused on intentional impact. They have identified key issues that are aligned with their interests and have started making larger grants that look to connect them deeply with the issue and to position the company as a leader.
These companies have further professionalized these efforts by becoming active members of broader foundation coalitions. If they are strategically investing in education, they are partnering with other foundations across the country making similar investments to increase the effectiveness of their efforts (and those of their peers).
As consulting firms increase their investment in pro bono in the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars it is time for us to follow the lead of strategic corporate philanthropy. To increase impact, these firms should be at the foundation tables that are building collective strategies for approaching core issues like education and the environment. This would not only help to focus the pro bono investments of professional services firms, but could perhaps more importantly bring a fresh perspective to these groups of grantmakers.
How do we get associations like the ones below to invite firms to the table to talk about pro bono as a form of grantmaking?
- Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (http://www.geofunders.org/home.aspx )
- Council on Foundations (http://www.cof.org/ )
- Grantmakers for Education (http://www.edfunders.org/ )
- Grantmakers for Children, Youth and Families (http://www.gcyf.org/ )
- Grantmakers in Aging (http://www.giaging.org/ )
- Environmental Grantmakers Association (http://www.ega.org/ )