Blue Shield of California recently piloted a pro bono program with the Taproot Foundation. Over the summer, Blue Shield employees engaged in team-based, eight-week projects to address critical capacity challenges with two partner domestic violence agencies. In addition to the positive impact made on the nonprofits, the employee participants took a lot away from the experience. But don’t take our word for it: Below is a case study from Bert Guzenski, a Blue Shield employee, who provides his perspective about what the project accomplished, its challenges, and his learning.
About the project
What project did you work on and what was your role?
The San Francisco pro bono team consisted of Shelley Schmidtlin and Bert Guzenski, who are in the Integrated Marketing and Client Experience team. We were assigned to work with A Safe Place, a domestic violence (DV) organization based on Oakland aimed at providing counseling and shelters for those in need and providing training and awareness for the community. The project goal was to enhance their marketing efforts so that A Safe Place could increase their outreach efforts with minimal overhead expenses. The project scope was to identify areas within their marketing activities that needed attention and provide recommendations that would assist them in getting to their goals. My role was to serve as a project manager that included defining the scope of the project and ensure meetings were held so that the team could provide status and discuss new items. In addition, I leveraged my experiences with website interaction to provide them with a list of recommendations to their website that would allow them to reach their key audiences. The project team was able to deliver all key items from the scope AND several additional tasks that came up since they were really important to the organization.
I was amazed at how well everyone worked together to quickly identify scope along with an action plan to make it happen.
Why did you participate in this project?
Generally, nonprofit organizations are challenged for funds, time, and people to fulfill their mission and outreach and A Safe Place also experienced these challenges. I wanted to make a difference within my community and felt that my professional skills and experiences would benefit an organization such as A Safe Place. Also, I wanted to connect with an organization that is very much a part of the community where I live. I felt that my contributions would quickly get them to their outreach goals.
Who did you work with from the nonprofit?
The team at A Safe Place included the executive director along with the lead staff members. I enjoyed working with the decision makers about their marketing plan. Knowing that they would be implementing the team recommendations was really satisfying and brought meaning to our work.
Challenges and successes
What challenges did you face and how did you work through them?
The biggest challenge for me was to completely understand the perspective and the unique space that A Safe Place serves. Since they work concurrently with state and religious organizations, understanding how (and why) they work with each group became important to provide the best marketing plan for them. Once I understood each of their key audiences, I was able to have more meaningful conversations with the team.
What was your favorite part of the project?
The best part of the project for me was getting to know the team at A Safe Place. I really enjoyed the onsite kick-off meeting and felt that seeing everyone in person really set the stage for the project (the ability to put a face to a name helps our work here at Blue Shield too). I was also amazed, and really pleased, at how willing the team was to listen and understand our recommendations. There were also many great discussions in which we bounced ideas around as a team to arrive at solutions that really worked! I could tell they were really excited and ready to act on the decisions made.
Would you do it again?
Absolutely! I would love to be a part of the pro bono program again! Blue Shield and Taproot have built an amazing partnership and I felt very supported during this project.
I would recommend this program for anyone who would like to make a contribution to a nonprofit organization and the communities they serve. Everyone at Blue Shield contributes their professional talents each and every day, why not bring that expertise to a nonprofit organization?
Was your perception of domestic violence challenged after working with A Safe Place?
Learning about domestic violence during meetings and listening to the conversations changed my perspective as to who is affected and came away with an understanding that domestic violence touches all socio-economic statuses within our society. This was contrary to my perception of who domestic violence affects and its root causes. I also came away knowing that domestic violence is very preventable and requires constant education to create awareness.