Pro Bono from the Start: Engaging early career professionals in skills-based volunteering

The statistics are clear: the incoming workforce wants to be a part of something good. According to Stanford Graduate School of Business, graduating MBA students at 11 top business universities value corporate responsibility so highly that when evaluating potential employers, “graduates are willing to sacrifice an average of 14.4 percent of their expected salaries to work at socially responsible companies.” According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, more than 50% of millennials said that a company’s involvement in various causes influenced whether or not they accepted a job.

This is great news for companies because skills-based volunteering, in terms of pro bono work, can offer huge rewards. Engaged employees offer 16% higher profitability, 18% higher productivity, 12% higher customer loyalty, and 60% higher quality work. To add to this, skills-based volunteering can generate over 400% more value for nonprofits and communities than traditional volunteering. Skills-based volunteering is a win-win-win offering personal satisfaction for employees, increased productivity for companies, and increased value for nonprofits.

However, it may be confusing as a newbie to find pro bono opportunities within a company. Here are some tips for early career professionals who are interested in volunteering their skills and expertise, as well as some tips for companies to support their efforts:

Does your company have a skills-based volunteer program?

  • New employee: Identify existing programs within your company. Talk to Human Resources, Corporate Social Responsibility / Community Relations, and your manager. When speaking with them, consider: does your company have a time release policy for volunteering? Who will be a mentor or champion for your pro bono project?
  • Company: Help a newcomer navigate the organization and find a mentor or champion to support their pro bono ventures. If a pro bono program exists, help them learn how to get involved.

If not, look to the community.

  • New employee: Find a nonprofit organization that you’re passionate about and talk to the organization’s leader. Identify their most pressing organizational needs and exactly what projects could address those needs, build a work plan and timeline, and define what expertise is needed to complete the project.
  • Company: Direct employees seeking pro bono opportunities to existing nonprofit partners and help them set up an initial conversation.

Build a team.

  • New employee: Determine the number of team members needed and identify colleagues with the expertise needed to complete the project. Set up a time to review the work plan and set expectations for commitment before introducing the team to the nonprofit partner.
  • Company: Support recruitment and outreach to help build a team.

Kick-off the project.

  • New employee: Use your work plan to define the phases, activities, and deliverables of each step of the process, then agree upon the defined scope of work with your team and nonprofit partner. Oversee the entire process to ensure timely completion of the project. Recommended phases include: Kick-off, Discovery, Drafting & Revisioning, Delivery & Training, and Assessment & Closing.
  • Company: Set up regular check-ins and learn from the project to inform a pilot program. Identify how the program can be scaled and improved for additional employees.

Encouraging early career professionals to engage in pro bono work will benefit the employee, the company, and the community. Support employee efforts to grow professionally and engage with existing or new community partners. If you have a program already in place, help them learn how to be effective pro bono consultants. If you are exploring the possibility of kicking off a program, use this opportunity to start small and learn how to turn one engagement into a pilot. The next generation will one day be the face of philanthropy and it is up to us to reach out to them now. GrantCraft’s analysis provides more information on the next generation donors and Taproot Foundation’s Powering Pro Bono Toolkit provides you with necessary resources to do so.

About the author(s)

Senior Associate Consultant
Taproot Foundation