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“[Companies] are using pro bono to develop leadership, nurture high-potential employees and create more strategic ways of giving back to the community”

Pro bono work is fast-becoming a way for organizations to fulfill their corporate social responsibility quotas. Many responsible and respected firms are using the practice to send their top talent into the big bad world to make it better.

According to Crain’s New York, organizations like the Taproot Foundation provide a network of corporate volunteers across the United States. Taproot also coordinate skilled volunteering programs for Fortune 500 companies, connecting them with nonprofits in need of strategic savvy workers.

“[Companies] are using pro bono to develop leadership, nurture high-potential employees and create more strategic ways of giving back to the community,” Liz Hamburg, president and CEO of the Taproot Foundation, said.

According to the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy, the percentage of US companies offering pro bono or skilled volunteering programs grew from 43% in 2013 to 54% in 2015, and is set to maintain this percentage during 2017 and beyond.

Pro bono work for leadership skillsEmployees who take on pro bono work are often viewed in a favorable light by bosses, and it could help their future promotion prospects. Workers are often paid in kind, through gifts or company incentives and bonus schemes.

Most importantly, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives instill a sense of personal fulfillment, and the long-term social impact these contributions make is harder to measure.

“It’s a struggle to measure the effect on the overall outcomes of an organization,” Hamburg said. But, pro bono work provides new challenges for the next generation of leaders, opportunities firms don’t tend to offer internally.

By taking on CSR initiatives, organizations enhance their ability to attract and retain talent, especially among the younger workforce who are now keener than ever to take on meaningful and worthwhile positions.

According to the Huffington Post, if a small or large company has pledged to provide pro bono services, connect and learn from their experiences. If you are concerned about your organization’s capacity to manage a skill based volunteer program, then look at other organizations willing to open their program to outside volunteers.

NBCUniversal recently took part in one such scheme where 39 members of the company’s HR staff participated in a day of “flash consulting” to 15 nonprofits.

“a greater appreciation for the challenges nonprofits face”

One beneficiary of the NBCUniversal program was tech-training organization Per Scholas, which used the opportunity to devise a policy for telecommuting employees. “We had preconceptions about the way to do it,” Michelle Pullaro, the nonprofit’s chief administrative officer, said. “They helped us think through how to implement it to make it fair.”

According to Crain’s, the benefits for corporate employees goes way beyond leadership, with many “volunteers saying they came away with a greater appreciation for the challenges nonprofits face and learned to tailor their advice to organizations that lack armies of workers able to implement new strategies.”

Corporate leaders are often calling for small and medium-sized businesses to join the conversation and call for skills based volunteers across America. Pro bono work may be frowned upon as a way of exploiting free labor, but it is certainly going a long way in helping companies fulfill the CSR initiatives, better their operations and contribute to a better society.

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