5 Questions You Should Ask to Strengthen and Scale Your Pro Bono Program

Oct 23, 2023

Whether tapping the enthusiasm and talent of employees in St. Louis or Singapore, research continues to show that creating impactful volunteer opportunities doesn’t only benefit communities in meaningful ways—it can enhance your business, too. At Points of Light, we are committed to providing resources for community-minded companies that want to strengthen and scale effective employee volunteer programs.  

Below is a quick list of research and resources that will help you address the most asked questions about skills-based and pro bono support of nonprofits and help strengthen your company’s social impact programs. Use these resources to become more effective champions of this work.  

Q. How do I make the business case to senior leadership to invest resources into implementing a skills-based volunteer or pro bono program?

The case for skills-based volunteering is clear and compelling. While nonprofit organizations will always need traditional volunteers to help them advance their mission, they are also in need of strategic support that builds capacity. Pro bono volunteers can help design human resources policies, implement technology upgrades, develop marketing campaigns and review legal documents.  

All of this work is necessary for any organization to thrive, but often nonprofits don’t have the budget for these tasks set aside each year, as they use their much-needed funds to continue supporting their beneficiaries. That’s where skills-based and pro bono volunteers can play an outsized role in their operations.  

Providing ways for employees to use their skills in support of nonprofit partners reaps dividends for businesses, too. It can help you achieve business goals related to recruitment and retention. It can help provide a lower-cost way to train and upskill employees. It can also support leadership development at all levels. And those are only the employee-related benefits!  

Inviting your employees to donate their time and talents to NGOs can also support your company’s bottom line by increasing positive public perception of your company’s brand, building customer loyalty and bringing innovation to your company’s products and services. 

For additional proof points that will appeal to senior leadership, check out ACCP’s Making the Case toolkit for 2023. 

Q. I work for a small business and am not sure if we can get involved in pro bono like larger companies might?

The most common concerns for small businesses when considering an employee volunteer program are related to cost and capacity. But there are creative ways to manage skills-based volunteerism so that it works for smaller businesses, including: 

  • Determine the maximum amount of time an employee can volunteer per fiscal year.  
  • If production runs are tight, recommend the employee volunteer after work hours, and determine appropriate compensation.  
  • Ensure proper cross-training of employees (and their ability to cover others’ assignments). This allows operations to continue when the employee is volunteering.  
  • Allow employees to utilize their sick, personal or vacation days for pre-approved volunteering opportunities.  
  • Allow employees to “donate” their sick, personal or vacation time to other employees who would like to volunteer.  
  • Check out our article on mobilizing employees even if you have a small team for additional pointers. 

Q. Where can I find best practices for designing a great pro bono program?

There are many great resources to help you design and implement the pro bono volunteer program that will make the right sense for your business, your colleagues and the communities in which your business operates. And the most important first step is understanding the needs of those communities and the nonprofits that support them.  

You’ll find that the “sweet spot (where your skills-based program runs efficiently and effectively, and delivers needed impact) lies at the intersection of those community needs, the skills and interests of employees, business priorities and constraints. Check out additional expert resources from Taproot Foundation here, including the ultimate guidebook to designing a corporate pro bono program.

Q. How do I find the right nonprofit partners?

First, consider your existing grantees, who might also be in need of pro bono support. Then, consider contacting the following networks, organizations or online resources that can connect you with local nonprofits and skills-based volunteer opportunities.   

  • Points of Light’s Global Network is comprised of volunteer-mobilizing organizations in 39 countries around the world. They can help you identify NGOs that need skills-based support and may also be able to help you design and implement your strategy. 
  • Taproot Plus offers an online tool to match nonprofit and small business needs with volunteers with the right skills and expertise. 
  • Catchafire is another online tool that connects skilled, virtual volunteers with nonprofits that need their expertise.  
  • Common Impact is a one-stop-shop that can help your business design and implement a skills-based strategy while also helping you find nonprofits that need your employees’ talents.  
  • Points of Light Engage is an online database of volunteer projects, many of which require the expertise of skilled volunteers.

Q. What can I do to help nonprofits be ready for skills-based volunteers?

Help your nonprofit partners increase their readiness to make the most of a skills-based project by sharing with them the organizational readiness assessment available through Capacity Commons provided by Common Impact and the Charles and Helen Schwab Foundation. It’s a free, online tool with extensive resources to help build nonprofit capacity to navigate skills-based volunteering, including pro bono efforts. 

Katy Elder
Vice President of Corporate Insights, Points of Light

Spending 20 years in the corporate social responsibility sector, Katy mixes creativity and strategy with expertise in employee engagement and corporate citizenship to develop resources and learning opportunities that advance corporate social impact.