Pro Bono Service Remains a Key to Unlocking Corporate Purpose

By Alison Vultaggio Associate Director, Corporate Leadership, CECP

Pro Bono service has been a cornerstone of corporate volunteerism for decades.  As the kids would say, it’s the “OG” of skills based volunteerism.  

As companies continue to refine their corporate responsibility strategies to 1. align more closely with business goals and 2.  enhance the impact of the nonprofit organizations they support, pro bono service has shone stronger than ever as a win-win-win opportunity for the business, its employees and the communities they and their nonprofit partners serve.

This is reinforced with data collected from over 250 leading corporations through CECP’s Giving in Numbers (GIN) research, the unrivaled leader in benchmarking on corporate social investments.

In fact, in 2018 corporations reported in GIN that pro bono service was one the top three most offered domestic volunteer programs across all respondents, and the program that has grown the most over a three year period in terms of the percent of companies making it available to employees (2016-2018).

So why are companies increasingly offering this type of skills based program? At CECP, we work to provide the data, insights and connections to support the social strategies of the world’s largest companies. Pro bono service is a key link to companies infusing purpose throughout all aspects of their business. Read on for some of the takeaways we find most compelling:

Employees want to engage in meaningful ways. The number of hours of pro bono service reported by corporate employees in Giving in Numbers jumped 61% (from 3,500 to 5,600) during 2016-2018 for a matched set of companies.  According to Pyxera’s State of the Practice research on global pro bono, 92% of global pro bono participants feel more culturally aware as a result of their experience and 78% of managers of global pro bono participants found employees to exhibit improved attitude and motivation.

Nonprofit organizations need the support. Nonprofit Finance Fund’s State of the Nonprofit Sector research found that 86% of nonprofit respondents say demand for their services is rising and 57% don’t think they can meet it. Respondents also cite the inability to offer competitive pay (66%) and employing enough hands to do the work (59%) as major concerns. Corporations are in the unique opportunity to offer not only cash and product, but also critical skills. A formalized pro bono partnership allows for the execution and delivery of specific nonprofit needs and goals.

The business value is clear. Taproot’s Business Value of Pro Bono makes the case for the ROI this type of program provides by outlining 6 benefits to the company: develop talent and leaders; cultivate your workforce; foster a strong culture; innovate and adapt; build your brand; and take social impact further.

It’s one (important) piece of the employee engagement puzzle. In 2018, companies in GIN reported offering, on average, 5.2 domestic volunteer programs, and 4.1 international. 62% of all companies reported offering a pro bono program. CECP recommends considering the spectrum of employee engagement programs available and offering a portfolio of options that best aligns with your strategy for supporting nonprofit partners. This will likely include traditional forms of volunteerism like company-wide days of service in addition to formal skills based programs like pro bono service.

Tracking and reporting are critical. 56% percent of companies in GIN reported pro bono monetary values in 2016 and 2018. The fact that this percentage remained flat for a three year matched set indicates that challenges exist when it comes to quantifying, tracking and reporting out the value of services donated. In 2015 CECP and Taproot partnered to develop a standard average per hour value for pro bono services. In the absence of employee skill-area data and internal billing rates, companies are advised to use an estimate of $150 per hour for Pro Bono Service projects. This number is based on an average billing rate across the eight most commonly offered skills areas for Pro Bono Service. Check out the full valuation guidance here.  We’re excited that Taproot will release an updated valuation guidance for 2020 – stay tuned!

CECP’s Giving in Numbers, along with the other resources mentioned above, are great sources of information about what companies are offering, how they are implementing, and the impact they are having through their pro bono service. Reach out to insights@cecp.co to learn more!

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