This guest blog post was submitted by Jonathan Feinstein of imc 2, a pledge company of A Billion + Change, and builds upon a campaign webinar held on February 29 discussing marathon models of skills-based volunteer programs.
As I reflect on 2011, four important milestones come to mind:
1. Porter and Kramer’s “Creating Shared Value” article spread like wildfire, offering a new framework for the relationship between business and society.
3. Taproot Foundation’s corps of skilled professionals provided their one millionth hour of pro bono consulting to the nonprofit sector.
4. A Billion + Change, a national campaign to mobilize billions of skills-based volunteer services from corporate America, was re-launched. To date, it has already secured $1.6 billion in pro bono pledges from businesses.
I know what you’re probably thinking: Wait? Why the last two? What does philanthropy and volunteerism have to do with monumental shifts underway in business?
Well, pro bono is not just another form of philanthropy. In fact, it may actually represent the most transformational exchange to take place on either side of the great profit/nonprofit divide. I’d even venture to say that this exchange may represent the vanguard of the shared value/conscious capitalism movement.
1. Businesses that embrace pro bono will build capacity more quickly and develop talent more effectively. Tough economic times aside, the next generation of business professionals want to use their skills for good. When structured intelligently, pro bono offers an incredible opportunity to grow and test the talent pipeline while simultaneously positioning hungry mid-level staff to gain valuable management experience.
2. This transfer of knowledge and skills will spur the next wave of sustainable social enterprises. Pro bono is the most effective form of service because, when done right, it builds the long-term capacity of the nonprofit partner. As nonprofits get more adept in attracting and leveraging pro bono relationships, we’ll see the sector adopt more innovative and effective methods of operation and service delivery.
3. Businesses that establish their pro bono niche will develop stronger partnerships across the value chain. At the heart of pro bono is one question: How do I create the most value with limited time? It’s an exercise in focus and efficiency which inspires some businesses to seek out other purpose-oriented partners that transcend a limited pro bono engagement.
4. Businesses with pro bono experience will be the first to capitalize in emerging markets. There’s a wave of growth to be had by businesses that truly understand and adapt to the context, needs, and desires of the poor – in both the developed and developing worlds. There is perhaps no better opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of these markets than by partnering and working alongside the nonprofits which are currently serving them.
At imc², we‘re embracing and testing these hypotheses through a program we call “Weekend of Love.” We dedicate one weekend very six months to work alongside nonprofit organizations, combining our unique approach to marketing with the abilities and passions of our employees. In just two years, these biannual Weekends of Love have delivered $2 million in strategic and creative services to our community, while also serving as important learning and development opportunities for our staff. We’re still learning, and we invite you to get involved here.
Want to learn more? On February 29, A Billion + Change held a webinar to discuss marathon models of pro bono work, where my colleague Christian Yazdanpanah presented our approach to skills-based volunteering alongside leaders at Hewlett Packard and Discovery Communications, who are doing similar pro bono work in their communities. View the slideshow and videos shared during the webinar online at: www.abillionpluschange.org.