The 2020 U.S. Pro Bono Summit Virtual Series included a special discussion of how small businesses are essential cornerstones for communities across the country and how pro bono programs can (and should!) be designed specifically to meet their needs. While the needs of individual businesses vary as much as the work they do and the customers they serve, we can look at successful pro bono for small business programs as examples.
These two programs, PruBono Small Business Consulting and 10,000 Small Businesses Emergency Coaching Program (ECP), vary widely in design but both meet key small business needs and bolster the communities their beneficiaries live and work in.
Long-Term Program Case Study: PruBono Small Business Consulting
PruBono Small Business Consulting, a 10-week pro bono program run by Prudential, organizes teams of Prudential employees to provide capacity-building resources to Newark, New Jersey, area small businesses. The program addresses participants’ longer-term capacity-building needs spanning areas like strategy, business development, marketing, operations, technology, and financial management.
In addition to supporting these businesses, PruBono Small Business Consulting is one of the many ways Prudential demonstrates their commitment to the Newark, New Jersey area they work in. The program gives Prudential and their employees an opportunity to deepen their connections to the local community that is so important to them.
PruBono also is part of their people strategy and was designed intentionally to include leadership development opportunities for employees in partnership by Prudential’s Office of Corporate Social Responsibility and Talent Management Center of Expertise.
Single Day Program Case Study: 10,000 Small Businesses Emergency Coaching Program (ECP)
Since 2016, Goldman Sachs and Bloomberg LP have partnered to run the 10,000 Small Businesses program—a public-private partnership designed to unlock the growth and job creation potential of small business owners across the U.S. The ECP was developed in partnership with Babson College and Taproot Foundation for business owners facing issues caused by COVID-19 through a one-on-one, one-hour consultation call. This program addresses small business owners’ shorter-term capacity-building needs spanning areas such as business development, marketing, operations, human resources, and financial modeling.
“It gave us the opportunity to focus on an important issue that will allow us to move past the pandemic (marketing) that we had not been able to dedicate time to since the pandemic hit.” – ECP Business Participant
131 ECP calls have been completed since April 1, and 95% of small business participants reported that their call was a valuable use of their time. An outstanding 99% of the volunteer coaches had good experiences providing useful business insights and would recommend the program to peers. And, perhaps most important for the immediate future, 80% of small business participants shared that the call would help them to navigate the challenges they are facing due to COVID-19.
“This is a way for us to help and give back to those affected by challenging circumstances. It also helps sharpen our skills as advisors. I found it extremely rewarding and a privilege to be a part of.” – ECP Volunteer Participant
ECP’s Keys to Success:
- Moved quickly to leverage Goldman Sachs talent and expertise as a short-term intervention for an existing network of businesses
- Ensured the call would provide actionable recommendations and fresh ideas
- Empowered employees to own the process end-to-end, with materials provided to guide them
Building Small Business Pro Bono Programs That Work for Your Company
These two programs are excellent examples of doing small business pro bono well – their designs capitalize on employee strengths, reinforce their company values, and lift up the communities they are committed to supporting. They are tailored to meet the needs of specific beneficiaries with their employee’s particular skills and resources, making them very different designs that both support small businesses.
One of the best things about pro bono is that no two programs are exactly alike—every program is unique so there’s always a way to help others by sharing professional skills!