Just because this year's Pro Bono Week is behind us doesn't mean that corporate volunteer leaders should shift their attention from pro bono service. Indeed, this form of employee volunteering has become so effective and popular that, for the first time, a study is underway to standardize reporting and document the value of pro bono service to communities and companies.
Missed Pro Bono Week? Inspired by the American Bar Association's National Celebration of Pro Bono, Pro Bono Week is a global celebration of the pro bono ethic across all professions that use their talents to make a difference. Pro bono advocates like Taproot and A Billion + Change work with partners around the world to focus attention on the pro bono movement each year during the third week of October. (Note for next year: get involved!)
A Billion + Change is continuing its work to evaluate and promote pro bono service through its first ever Pro Bono Benchmarking Survey. In an effort to help companies better understand pro bono and skills-based service and to align professional development with their pro bono work, the Billion + Change Pro Bono Collaborative and Points of Light recently released a new survey that will standardize measurement and evaluation for pro bono service. To develop and refine the survey tool, the Pro Bono Collaborative members, which include national leaders of the pro bono movement, shared their methodologies around pro bono service.
A Billion + Change and Points of Light encourage all companies to take the 20-minute survey to help uncover best practices and success stories in this field. The organizations note that the Pro Bono Benchmarking Survey allows participating companies to benefit in several ways:
1. Evaluating your impact. Become one of the first companies to find out how your company performs against pro bono best practices. Taking the survey will be a valuable learning experience for your company.
2. Comparing your impact. When the initial set of results is released in 2015, you can review your company's survey responses to the results and see how your company stacks up.
3. Improving your impact. Use the results and survey responses to create a plan to deepen your company's impact in the community. Visit the Billion Plus Change resources section for guides and toolkits that will help you get started.
But the most compelling reasons to prioritize pro bono service are captured in some of the personal stories of the Daily Point of Light honorees, exceptional skills-based volunteers who were recognized during Pro Bono Week. For example:
**Miguel Guerra, a successful IT executive with Fortune 500 IT solutions provider CDW, who volunteers with Lumity, a Chicago nonprofit that introduces youth to technology. Guerra mentors underserved young people facing the same obstacles that he once did, along the way inspiring the students and being equally inspired by them. Guerra encourages other professionals to make time to volunteer. "Think of your most vulnerable moment and the people that were there for you," he says. "None of us made it on our own. Someone has given us that helpful nudge at some point. It's important to reach back and do the same for someone else."
**Angela Elbert, a partner at law firm Neal Gerber Eisenberg, whose role as board chair of Step Up Women's Network has helped advance the growth of the nonprofit that pairs under-resourced teen girls with professional mentors. Step Up creates a network for professional women to sharpen their business skills while also helping disadvantaged teen girls go to college, often as the first person in their family ever to do so. Elbert sees firsthand that the barriers which have kept women from achieving their career goals are continuing to fall. "There are more and more opportunities for women where there might not have been before," she believes. "The world is opening up, and we have to be able to take advantage of these opportunities."
**Gilman Sullivan, a Navy veteran employed at software company Blackbaud, who volunteers at area military bases to help service members prepare for their entry into the civilian job market. Gilman delivers a monthly presentation to active duty personnel who are entering the civilian job market, and estimates that he's delivered 88 workshops over the past five years, training more than 1,000 people. "I tell them, people know because you are coming out of the military that you are disciplined, you are capable, you have done things that they don't even understand, but they respect."
When it comes to employee volunteering and corporate philanthropy, pro bono service is the wave of the future. So if your company is engaging in pro bono or is interested in doing so, take a moment to contribute to the understanding of this important emerging practice by participating in the Pro Bono Benchmarking Survey.