Although concerned citizens and certain professions, namely attorneys, have been practicing pro bono and skills-based volunteerism for a long time, focusing on them as formal corporate volunteer programs is relatively new.
Back in 2006, LBG Associates published a concept paper in conjunction with Deloitte titled, Sharing Our Best with the Rest…Leveraging Intellectual Capital for Social Good. It argued that companies could transfer knowledge and leverage their intellectual capital through:
- Pro-bono Activities
- Loaned Executives
- Board Placement
- Skills-based Volunteerism
The report was a call to action–and companies responded.
Fast-forward 12 years and many large companies are embracing pro bono and skills-based volunteerism for their employees. Today, business leaders are increasingly recognizing the value of these programs, in particular when it comes to talent development. Pro bono is an effective way to enable employees to use and enhance existing skills, as well as develop new ones, such as leadership and managerial skills. In some companies, management actually identifies the skill sets that it wants its employees to develop to advance the business, and then searches for pro bono volunteer experiences that enable employees to develop these skills. Unlike the ad hoc programs of the past, these programs are very intentional and impactful.
Employees, too, are excited about pro bono volunteering and are asking for opportunities to serve. Whereas in the past, programs were primarily geared toward high performing employees and used to advance their careers, today companies are beginning to offer “pro bono for all.” They are recognizing that all employees can benefit from the experience and are creating various types of programs, from long-term, intense ones to short-term, light touch ones. They are designing a portfolio of programs that meet the differing needs of employees as well as nonprofits.
Pro bono is continuing to make progress. Our latest study, Pro Bono Today: What’s New, What’s Working, certainly demonstrates this. Many of the obstacles that we identified in our 2015 study, Balancing Pro Bono: Supply and Demand: Challenges and Solutions From the Nonprofit Point of View are being addressed by both partners—the nonprofits and companies. Another achievement: it is not as difficult as it was only five years ago to convince management and departments such as HR that pro bono is good for the company, employees and the community. And I expect it will get easier as the benefits to all become more apparent.