01/31/2013 10:16 am ET Updated Apr 02, 2013

Upwardly Global Is Powered by Pro Bono

Upwardly Global (UpGlo) helps educated and experienced immigrants that have recently arrived in the US to rebuild their professional careers. They ensure that the education and experience possessed by professionals from abroad is acknowledged and understood by employers, while helping immigrant professionals understand the cultural cues that are important to successfully navigate the U.S. job market.

As Nikki Cicerani, national executive director, frames the issue,

It's why you find a someone with PhD in engineering from Pakistan driving a cab.We provide them with both the know-how and the connection to employers and volunteers that they need to successfully get a foothold in the professional world.

UpGlo stands out for their focus on metrics. Specifically, they track the number of people that are successfully finding jobs within their field, as well as how many companies are hiring their clients. "They're not hiring them to be nice," Cicerani explains, "they're hiring them because they are the best candidate to fill a key role at the company. Right now we've placed over 1500 immigrant professionals back into their chosen profession, all of whom were completely unemployed or severely underemployed previously."

Advocacy is also a priority for UpGlo. They engage employers to make them aware of this talent pool and work to dispel some of the common myths around hiring immigrant professionals.

We introduce these companies to actual immigrant professionals to demonstrate the talent that's available and overcome misconceptions. The metrics that we use relate to the number of employers that have been educated and engaged in our program as a volunteer partner or hiring partner. We track how many employers have hired from us.

In only ten years, UpGlo has expanded nationally and created significant impact for skilled immigrants and employers, and their work has helped to alleviate poverty, broaden the tax base, and fill key in demand positions in the U.S.. As a volunteer-driven organization that started without significant capital, leveraging pro bono services has been a key element in their success.

Founder Jane Leu has left a legacy that has a lot to do with that. A visionary leader, Leu began looking at expansion only a few short years after founding the organization. Though very successful in their flagship San Francisco location, UpGlo did not have the staff capacity for large-scale growth. Embracing a Service Enterprise approach to scaling, Leu leveraged pro bono research from NYU and incorporated volunteers into its management infrastructure, maximizing impact by relying on volunteer support for programming, fundraising and administrative functions.

Cicerani has followed the example set by founder Jane Leu, and shared two pro bono case studies around the support received from Western Union and Accenture.

In late 2010, UpGlo was working on identifying ways to grow earned revenue for the organization.

"Western Union has an 'Executives in Residence' program, and one of those execs worked with us on this," Cicerani explains. "She leveraged every contact at Western Union to pull market data, establish useful benchmarks, and vet ideas for us."

Accenture, similarly, provided a pro bono team to work on building Upwardly Global's job board. They were able to provide critical insight related to what makes employers feel like their investments in job boards and resume databases are worthwhile, and where there is overlap in UpGlo's programming, identifying where there was opportunity to add real value.

This was an invaluable service to us, obviously, but what I liked most was that it wasn't a general project or recommendation, it was very specific and tactical. Accenture got right in the weeds and helped us sort out where we should be focusing our efforts to provide the right placements for our clients while creating value for the companies. And like Western Union, they really took the time to get to know our business and grapple with some of the tough issues. They ultimately helped us make the best decision possible, and even provided support through the implementation -- which is fantastic.

UpGlo is a prime example of the value of pro bono services in scaling impact and driving success for a nonprofit organization. Expanding capacity through donated professional services not only helps organizations thrive, but strengthens partnership with the private sector, translating into long-term relationships and even greater incentive for financial investment in the future.

Cicerani's leadership has expanded and professionalized UpGlo's services. Is your organization taking advantage of pro bono?

Upwardly Global has been selected as a finalist for the JobRaising Challenge, a philanthropic initiative sponsored by the Huffington Post, Skoll Foundation and CrowdRise to help job-creating nonprofits raise funds to put Americans back to work. The three organizations to raise the most money are awarded additional grants of up to $150,000.