03/29/2012 10:47 am ET Updated May 29, 2012

Determined To Make A Difference: How Young Professionals Are Changing The World, One Cause At A Time

It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenges facing children and families in our communities and worldwide. In the U.S. alone, more than 15 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. All over the world, billions of people lack the basic necessities of life: Food, clean water, and adequate shelter. The numbers are so staggering that we barely know where to begin. How can we help confront these enormous problems? What can we do that will actually make an impact? The good news is that there are many opportunities for concerned citizens to get involved and make change happen.

ProInspire Fellows make real differences every day in their communities and around the globe. Through their work, ProInspire has seen how ordinary people can help address social issues like empowering youth in our communities, supporting entrepreneurs across the country, and expanding financial access around the world.

ProInspire recruits young professionals with two to five years of business experience to work for leading nonprofits focused on major social issues. Now in its fourth year, this unique program has enabled dozens of young professionals to follow their passion and put their talent to work for the greater good.

Marian Leitner, a 2011 ProInspire Fellow, helps provide vaccines for children in the world's 70 poorest countries through her work with GAVI Alliance. The statistics are shocking: In developing countries, one child dies every 20 seconds from a vaccine -- preventable disease. While most children in the U.S. receive vaccinations for these diseases as part of standard care, 23 million children worldwide have no access to vaccines that could help them grow up to lead productive lives. Marian joined GAVI in August 2011 as Innovative Finance Analyst. She works with GAVI's Matching Fund to create private sector partnerships that will improve the accessibility and distribution of vaccines in developing countries.

The issues affecting children and families are dire in the United States as well. Our nation's capital has the third highest poverty rate in the country. Nearly one out of every three children in Washington D.C. lives in poverty, and many other families are struggling to get by. Fortunately, organizations like the Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) are helping children from low-income families build promising futures. LAYC operates a network of youth centers, charter schools, and social enterprises with a shared commitment to helping youth become successful and happy young adults with the skills they need to succeed educationally, professionally, and personally. Blair Hewes, a 2011 ProInspire Fellow, joined LAYC in August 2011 as Special Projects Manager. She is helping launch LAYC Career Academy, an innovative model that helps teens and young adults earn college credits through a rigorous and flexible GED program, college preparatory curriculum, and career preparation in the healthcare and information technology fields.

Marian and Blair are just two examples of passionate individuals who are helping children and families live better lives. How can you get involved? There are many ways for you to use your professional talents to make a difference:

1. Become a pro bono volunteer
Nonprofit organizations have many needs for pro bono support, including legal, marketing, strategy, and technology. Organizations like Taproot Foundation, Hands On Network, and Bankers without Borders match professionals with organizations that need their valuable talents.

2. Join a nonprofit board of directors
All nonprofits have a board of directors that plays an important role in ensuring the legal, fiduciary, and ethical responsibilities of an organization are met. Serving on a nonprofit board is a rewarding way to support an organization, build skills, and expand networks. Learn more about nonprofit boards and opportunities at BoardSource, Bridgestar, and BoardNet USA.

3. Work for an organization driving social impact
If you are looking to move your career towards social impact, consider working for a nonprofit or social enterprise. Fellowships like ProInspire, Education Pioneers, and Encore are designed to bring new sources of talent to organizations solving critical social problems. You can also apply directly to nonprofits through Idealist, Commongood Careers, and many other job boards.

4. Get involved with Opportunity Nation
Opportunity Nation is a broad coalition of nearly 200 businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, and military organizations that help create a shared, bipartisan plan to build better skills, jobs, and communities. Get involved as an Opportunity Leader in your own community.

5. Spread the word
When you find a cause you believe in, promote their good work by following them on Facebook and Twitter, telling your friends, or making a donation. The important thing is to get involved.

For more information about how ProInspire is building the next generation of nonprofit
leaders, please visit