By Kim Gillman, Senior Associate Consultant, Advisory Services, Taproot Foundation
Thinking outside the box
Citi is revolutionizing the way that corporate America can impact the social sector. Here’s how: Citi deliberately looks beyond hands-on community service and checkbook philanthropy, recognizing the potential of its employees to apply their expertise in areas like financial services, HR and marketing to directly impact nonprofits’s ability to fulfill their missions. Through its partnership with Taproot Foundation, Citi and the Citi Foundation are moving the needle on the country’s most pressing social issues. Most recently, we focused our efforts on the environment.
One of Citi’s most notable Earth Week engagements was a Citi Skills Marathon on April 26, where 25 Citi employees helped 4 local sustainability nonprofits tackle their most pressing finance and HR needs. The marathon model is a done-in-a-day approach to pro bono that leverages employee expertise to address a nonprofit’s capacity and infrastructure challenges. All participants, both nonprofit leaders and Citi volunteers, indicated that they would do the event again in the future—a testament to the power of pro bono corporate social responsibility.
The art of piloting new corporate pro bono initiatives
After five Citi Skills Marathons in one year in three different cities, with a focus on causes ranging from women’s empowerment to veterans’ we’ve only just begun to see this model’s potential. Taproot has collaborated with Citi to replicate and scale the Skills Marathon. After committing to host two more marathons in New York in 2013, they have plans to grow the model across Citi offices globally. Taproot has built Citi a customized Skills Marathon Toolkit complete with all of the tools and resources necessary to put on a turnkey marathon event anywhere in the world. In just a year’s time, the program has grown from a pilot to a global initiative.
Citi’s textbook trajectory of starting small, but thinking big is a great model for like-minded companies. Instead of just planting trees, employees can plant their skills and expertise for long-term, sustainable impact.