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The conversation of pro bono from the legal sector has caught fire in the corporate sector during the last two years as corporations look for new ways to positively impact the nonprofit sector.

The increasing number of corporations seeking out conversations on how more pro bono can be done and done better is an indicator of the vitality and momentum of the pro bono movement. A recent study commissioned by the Capital One Financial Corporation in partnership with the Taproot Foundation makes the business case for corporate pro bono programs and reveals that many corporations regard their pro bono service programs as a win-win-win for the company, the community, and employees.

LBG Associates conducted the research and surveyed executives, managers, and employees in a range of departments across companies with formalized pro bono programs including Accenture, Booz Allen Hamilton, Capital One, Gap, Inc. Genworth Financial, and SAP. The study revealed that every executive surveyed regards their pro bono program as important for their company and a good fit with the company’s culture, business, goals, and community involvement strategy.

The research emphasizes the professional development benefits of pro bono service. According to employees, managers, and senior executives, pro bono service helps employees develop new skills and strengthen existing ones. In particular, employees felt most strongly that they were able to gain or improve communication and networking skills. Seventy-five percent of managers noted increased leadership skills in employees.

From a company perspective, pro bono service improves recruitment and retention and enhances the company’s reputation and brand in the community. More specifically, 70% of employees and 80% of managers stated that the company’s pro bono service program could enhance recruitment of new employees. The value of pro bono service to the community is that nonprofits gain access to a market of professional skills that assist them in achieving their objectives and increasing their impact on the community.

These findings emphasize the need for businesses to invest in formalizing their pro bono programs to maximize the benefits of pro bono service. The Taproot Foundation recommends that every formalized pro bono program should:

  • Ensure pro bono service is incorporated into professional development in order to alleviate employee’s concerns of risking performance ratings.
  • Clearly communicate how and why the pro bono program is aligned with the company’s business values to attain stakeholder buy-in.
  • Provide internal leadership and oversight to properly screen partners, define project scopes, and manage projects effectively. This optimizes the deliverables and enhances the pro bono service experience for employees.

The current momentum of the pro bono movement is sure to gain more energy as businesses continue to formalize their own pro bono service programs. And, with such significant strides and successes in the corporate sector over a relatively short time period, it is exciting to consider what innovation businesses will spearhead in pro bono driven social impact over the coming years.

Guest blogger Justin Gimotea is the Corporate Relations Fellow at the Taproot Foundation.

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