Searching for New Ways to Volunteer in the New Year?

A rising trend among corporations today is to engage in skill-based volunteering. This model has long been used on a smaller scale with graduate students who serve as interns or fellows. The students come to the nonprofit with a designated project and spend a semester or more addressing it. The students are chosen because their skill set matches the nonprofit need.

Now corporate philanthropy is taking this idea to a larger level, aiming to create long lasting and potentially transformational partnerships while giving nonprofits the potential to have sophisticated infrastructure otherwise unavailable with their limited staff and budget restraints. This is not just pro bono volunteering, but customized volunteering.

A few successful examples include:

  • Employees of Adobe, Inc. pairing with young writers to create unique and compelling cover designs for their manuscripts,
  • Toyota employees in San Antonio pulling from their assembly line experience to identify efficiencies and maximize the flow of donated food items to the floor for a local food bank,
  • Des Moines’ annual DSMhack bringing together skilled volunteers from across the IT spectrum, creating new websites, mapping tools and even a nutrition calculator for worthy nonprofits–all in one fast paced weekend!

In order to work the process must start with a nonprofit’s needs, then match those needs with a corporate partner having a focus and skill set that meets them. Additionally, the nonprofit must have the staff and capacity to invest in guiding and supervising the process, which can prove challenging.

Sometimes referred to as ‘The Knitting Factor’, skill-based volunteering is designed with a focus on long term training, long term connection and long-term effect. With 75% of corporations incorporating employee citizenship activities into their model and since, from the corporate perspective, skills-based volunteering has been found to enhance employee skills and talents, improve retention, and is attractive to millennials, this idea is likely to grow!