Skills-Based Volunteer Programs

Companies are increasingly looking for ways to involve their employees in different communities by inspiring them to volunteer. One of the more effective approaches that has been implemented by some larger firms is the concept of skills-based volunteering. Skills-based volunteering takes advantage of the unique talents of employees by pairing them with nonprofit organizations that can use their expertise. To understand this concept in detail one can look at the efforts of Morgan Stanley and IBM. Both have implemented effective programs that demonstrate the value that can be produced from well-designed volunteer schemes.

Morgan Stanley’s Strategy Challenge provides nonprofits with pro bono strategic consulting advice. Teams of talented employees are formed and paired with a nonprofit organization seeking expert advice on how to increase their impact in different communities. Each team is comprised of four Morgan Stanley employees at the Associate or Vice President Level as well as a Managing Director and expert in nonprofit consulting. Relying on an analytic approach, teams assess the most appropriate measures their nonprofit can implement in order to accomplish a series of goals. The eight-week project culminates with a final presentation in front of a panel of experts. The presentation details the actions each team believes is best suited to improve the productivity and impact of their nonprofit. The 2013 winner of the Strategy Challenge is exemplary of the impact Morgan Stanley is trying to achieve. A team helped Bring Me A Book, an organization dedicated to improving literacy in underserved Californians, expand their book access program with the introduction of digital media. The project did an excellent job orienting the nonprofit towards the future.

In total, Morgan Stanley employees have helped 77 nonprofits by dedicating 45,000 hours to produce 6.8 million dollars in value. But, these statistics only detail half of the equation. Morgan Stanley employees often leave the initiative having developed critical business skills and further contacts within the company. Skills like client management and communication are honed throughout the process. Most importantly, employees leave with an appreciation of the nonprofit sector and the satisfaction that comes with contributing to its goals.

IBM’s Corporate Service Corps is likewise an initiative that has received much praise in recent years. The company routinely sends 10-15 person teams of top management prospects on four week projects to address economic concerns in emerging markets. The goal is to provide local groups and governments with superb consulting advice developed through years of experience working on similar projects around the world. Communities can be sure they are making smart development decisions while IBM can be sure they are gaining knowledge of and improving their reputation in growth markets. It is a win-win for both parties and has brought positive exposure to some underserved areas of the world.

Skills-based volunteering is an excellent way to provide professional services to worthy nonprofit and government organizations that would not otherwise be able to afford them. It is a different way of thinking about the nonprofit sector that inspires employees to give back. Many are thrilled to learn that the skills they have developed in their professional lives can be used to help nonprofit organizations. This enthusiasm is shared by the charitable organizations who receive specific and productive help. The result is a fruitful alliance that excites both parties and highlights the power of skills-based volunteering.