02/25/2012 11:37 am ET Updated Apr 26, 2012

Competitive Volunteering Delivers Results For Communities and Companies

Disclosure: Morgan Stanley is a founding sponsor of A Billion+Change providing leadership, council and financial support.

According to the Independent Sector, America's 1.5 million nonprofits represent 9 percent of our workforce and 5 percent of GDP. These non profits are helping to shore up our troubled economy with the vast majority facing an increase in demand for services and increased stresses on their own operations from declining contributions, to low cash reserves, to limited funders and reduced support from federal and local governments. In fact, a 2010 study by pro bono consultants, Common Impact, found that 79 percent of nonprofits are spending 2 percent or less of their operating budget to support key infrastructure.

What do get when you ask a leading financial services company like Morgan Stanley to volunteer to tackle this challenge? You get the Strategy Challenge, a hard driving volunteering initiative designed to contribute high value solutions to non-profits while developing the next generation of organizational and community leaders. Since 2009 teams of outstanding employees at Morgan Stanley, who are nominated by senior management and then apply to participate in the highly competitive opportunity, have worked in 8 week blocks with 36 nonprofits in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. Diving deeply into the non-profits needs, challenges, and opportunities they offer strategic recommendations on business modeling and
growth strategy issues--all pro bono. In the first three years of the Strategy Challenge, the value of that time and energy is estimated at over $2 million, according to pro bono standards developed by the Taproot Foundation.

In New York City, the volunteering experts at New York Cares made a successful bid for one of the Morgan Stanley golden tickets. Its Strategy Challenge team was able to save them $30,000 annually by recommending improvements to its volunteer on-boarding process.

Why do they do it? Skilled volunteering and pro bono service offers companies like Morgan Stanley a chance to let their distinctive competencies shine while creating a lasting and deeper impact with the non-profits they fund and support. It also gives rising stars within the organization an opportunity to learn, grow, perform and be recognized while gaining coveted access to senior management. For the ambitious, highly educated workforce at Morgan Stanley, those are powerful incentives. For the non-profits who get teams of MBAs for free -priceless.

A Billion + Change was launched by the Corporation for National and Community Service and is under the honorary chairmanship of Senator Mark Warner, it is now housed and managed by the Points of Light Institute. The initiative is powered by the support of Deloitte, HP, the Case Foundation and IBM with additional founding support from State Farm, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, and Morgan Stanley.