THE BLOG
06/17/2013 10:55 am ET | Updated Aug 17, 2013

We Need More Companies in the Business of Change

Imagine what would happen if the marketing experts behind your favorite Super Bowl ad developed a campaign to help a nonprofit recruit volunteers or raise awareness of an important cause. Or if the engineers at a leading technology company served as tutors at a local school, bringing STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and math) to life and sparking new dreams in students for cutting-edge careers.

We could bring the unmatched skills and expertise of America's business professionals to some of our nation's most pressing problems - from closing the achievement gap to filling the pipeline for a 21st century workforce. And we could build the capacity of nonprofits to meet critical needs, exactly when it's needed most.

This is happening in communities across the country through pro bono service and skills-based volunteering. Inspired by campaigns such as A Billion + Change, our nation's businesses are lending their best skills and talent to the nonprofit sector.

But why pro bono service? And why now?

Simply put: When the economy catches a cold, the nonprofit sector catches the flu. Just as tough economic times ratcheted up demand for services, many nonprofits faced bleaker funding opportunities and budget cuts from declining federal, state and local support. Even as the U.S. continues on the road to economic recovery, nonprofits and faith-based and community organizations are over-tasked and under-resourced to play their vital role in our society.

Compounding this problem, nonprofits aren't investing enough today to sustain their much-needed services for tomorrow. Nearly eight in every ten nonprofits (79 percent) spend only two percent or less of their operating budgets on supporting key infrastructure. In comparison, businesses in the service industry spend 20 percent of their budgets building a healthy infrastructure by investing in human resources, information technology, marketing, operations and other functional expertise.

This is a nonprofit capacity crisis. Fortunately, American businesses are mobilizing their most valuable asset--talent--to fill the gap.

From financial expertise to technology support to marketing savvy, these businesses are bringing their specialized skills to local nonprofits, ensuring that vital, community-based organizations have the capacity and infrastructure to deliver on their mission. For example, a pro bono partnership with a global technology company allowed one youth organization to develop an online community, implement a STEM program supporting 14,000 girls and expand its reach to girls and volunteers in rural areas and with limited Internet access.

For nonprofits, this kind of pro bono service is invaluable. But one estimate puts such skilled support at five times of greater value to nonprofits than standard volunteer time, including more traditional ways of volunteering such as serving meals at a local shelter or giving the youth center a fresh coat of paint.

And in the process of doing good, these businesses do well. Research shows that a company's commitment to pro bono service can go a long way toward attracting, developing and retaining the best talent, as well as improving the bottom line. It's a way that businesses and employees can make deep and sustainable impact, simply by doing what they do best.

The social and economic challenges of our time demand an all-of-the-above solution, where the public, private and nonprofit sectors collaborate more than ever before. To meet these challenges, we need more companies and their world-class professionals in the business of change.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and A Billion + Change, a national campaign that has inspired the largest commitment of pro bono service in history. The series is part of A Billion + Change's celebration of mobilizing more than $2 billion worth of corporate pro bono services for nonprofits, which it will announce at "Service Unites," Points of Light's Conference on Volunteering and Service taking place this week in Washington, DC. For more information about the campaign, click here, and for more information about the conference, click here.

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