This Pro Bono Week, Taproot Foundation is spotlighting nonprofits, business professionals, and companies—like Prudential—who are playing key roles in bringing the impact of pro bono to life in communities around the globe.
When it comes to companies making a difference in their communities, Prudential Financial stands out for their strong commitment to their hometown of Newark, New Jersey. Their dedication to Newark goes back more than 140 years, when they were founded in the city they still call home. In just the past decade, Prudential has committed more than $1 billion in Newark through impact investments, philanthropic grants, and human capital. From funding support for nonprofits to investments in citywide infrastructure, Prudential gives back to their community at all levels.
The ripple effect of collaboration
Pro bono is an important piece of Prudential’s shared value approach. They’ve worked with Taproot since 2015 and currently offer one-day PruBono events as well as multi-week projects that engage both their employees and the community. For Prudential, the PruBono program helps strengthen its strong ties to Newark, by leveraging their employee skillsets to create additional value for its partner organizations. The result ensures that organizations have access to talent as well as financial resources. Julia Brown, Associate Manager for Corporate Social Responsibility, notes that quite a few organizations return to the PruBono program each year to address new challenges. “It’s really exciting to see the ripple effect of this work,” Brown says, describing one nonprofit partner who uses PruBono to address local challenges and then brings ideas back to their national organization. Pro bono is more than a commitment—it’s a collaboration, bringing nonprofits and employees together to solve challenges.
“It can sometimes be challenging for our employees—they’re used to having additional data and resources at a company like ours,” Brown acknowledges. “But the impact they’re able to have is so huge, and our employees are definitely willing to stretch their skillsets for difficult tasks.” Kelly McKenna is one Prudential employee who can certainly attest to the value of the PruBono program.
Building BRICKs and connections
McKenna was the team lead for a project partnering with BRICK Education Network, a Newark-based nonprofit focused on serving children and families through a network of education, social services, and community-building programs. The Prudential team worked with BRICK on key communications as the organization prepared to open an additional school. “It was so meaningful to work with the individuals at [BRICK]—they were so passionate about driving change in the community. And getting to know colleagues at Prudential I hadn’t worked with before was so valuable,” shared McKenna.
“I’ve worked for a lot of large companies with different volunteering programs, but this was my first time completing a skills-based volunteering project like this,” McKenna continued. “We do a tremendous amount of philanthropic work as a company, but to actually participate like this was really rewarding. It’s meaningful to know you work for a company that’s truly committed to making a difference.”
An exponential impact at Prudential
For nonprofit participants, pro bono is an impactful, inspiring experience. Greater Newark Enterprises Corporation (GNEC), a nonprofit and Community Development Financial Institution assisting entrepreneurs and small businesses in underserved communities, is one of those returning nonprofit participants. GNEC has participated in two PruBono Marathons and one 10-week consulting project, and their Executive Director Steven Gomez describes pro bono as a uniquely valuable resource.
Through Prudential, GNEC has taken on challenges like a deep dive into their workflow processes, a review of their marketing efforts, and an engagement around improving technology infrastructure. Most recently, they participated in a PruBono Marathon in preparation for launching a new fee-for-service program. GNEC came in seeking pricing guidance, but as Gomez shared, they took away even more than that: “Our initial challenge was very technical, but the results had big strategic implications.” The team helped GNEC reevaluate their outreach strategy, identify their ideal partners, and modify their messaging. “It’s even helped us see the value we bring through a different lens,” Gomez said.
For Gomez, much like Prudential, pro bono is about connection and community. “This experience helped us think about who and how we serve—we’ve moved towards being more collaborative and complementary in our community.” Gomez emphasized the exponential impact that can be had when they receive the support they need to better serve other small businesses and nonprofits. Now, he says, “we’ve been able to help more people, even if those people might not be working directly with us.”
Prudential has recently added an innovative component to the PruBono program: offering pro bono resources to small businesses in Newark. This program is a valuable piece of their commitment to inclusive economic growth in Newark. Prudential partnered with one of their grantees, Rising Tide, an organization dedicated to supporting under-resourced entrepreneurs, to source passionate community-focused small business owners in need of additional expertise. “With Small Business Consulting, we’re able to proactively support the whole community—from nonprofits to local entrepreneurs and small businesses,” Brown said.
Flows Tasty Treats is one Newark company that’s benefitted from Prudential’s PruBono Small Business Consulting. Helmed by entrepreneur Florence Dennis, Flows Tasty Treats has an exciting (and delicious) mission: introducing their customers to snacks from across Africa. After completing a 12-week business academy with Rising Tide, Dennis kept an eye open for additional opportunities. When Rising Tide shared information about the PruBono Small Business Consulting program, she seized the opportunity.
Upon entering the program, Dennis was matched with a team of technical experts who were committed to solving her data challenges. In addition to a data management solution, Dennis’s team offered advice on challenges around packaging as well. “It was a great value for my business to have people of such caliber think with me, plan with me, and listen to me,” Dennis says. Best of all, she’s been able to put the results into action: she’s currently preparing to launch her new, redesigned packaging. “Everything we spoke about, I took it and I’m running with it! I know these recommendations will get me where I want to go.”
The relationships Dennis built with her team were one of the most valuable resources of the program. “The connection went beyond the few weeks we worked together,” she shared. She’s stayed in touch with one team member who regularly checks in on Flows Tasty Treats, encouraging her to ask questions and share exciting successes. In fact, Dennis has spent a lot of time since the completion of the program thinking about connection. This concern is at the top of her mind for one exciting reason: she’s looking forward to building on the success of the program and expanding from a team of one, “creating employment in my community and offering jobs to those who need them.”
Giving back and doubling down
The PruBono program is a key component of Prudential’s work in Newark. As Brown says, the idea of pro bono service is intrinsically built into Prudential’s shared value approach: “We’re a company that’s always been focused on our people and our talent. Pro bono service allows us to double-down on the investment we’re making financially in the city by leveraging our talent.” Whether through nonprofits or small businesses, pro bono helps Prudential and their employees form even deeper connections to the community that plays such an important role for them. When employees, nonprofits, and small businesses all benefit—Prudential wins, and Newark does, too.