The 2016 GE Global Month of Service connects employees worldwide around a commitment to serve, with thousands of GE employees volunteering their time and talent to build stronger communities where they live and work. This month of service, in partnership with Points of Light, demonstrates the power that individuals have to impact their communities.
For several years, NGOs in Hungary have been working to make a greater impact in the communities they serve. András F. Tóth, executive director of Volunteering Hungary – Centre of Social Innovation, has been a champion of this cause.
Volunteering Hungary helps local volunteers find opportunities and supports the partner organizations that engage them with information, advice and training, to make the best use of volunteers’ effort. Four years ago, F. Tóth started to think on a broader scale and discovered a way for partner corporations to better leverage their volunteers – through pro bono service.
F. Tóth said there were various factors that influenced this discovery, one being a workshop at the IAVE World Volunteer Conference in London in December 2012 and another, the work of the Global Pro Bono Network. It was through them that he discovered the power that corporate volunteers possess, which can result in deep impact when working with NGOs.
The largest American employer in Hungary, with more than 10,000 associates, GE Hungary has been able to carry on the company’s legacy of service. Joerg Bauer, president of GE Hungary, attended the European Pro Bono Summit and was inspired to get more GE employees involved in pro bono volunteerism.
“Pro bono for us means that we contribute with those professional skills that we have been trained for, said Bauer. “Think about a finance or IT person who can give advice in this field, or someone who is doing marketing, communication or customs. We strongly believe in knowledge transfer creating the most impact for the common good, allowing the NGO or charity to concentrate on their core activities.”
This year, GE Hungary and Volunteering Hungary held their second annual Pro Bono Marathon at the company’s Váci Green campus in Budapest, where GE volunteers provided strategic guidance and skills-based support to help four NGOs generate solutions for problems they are facing. The NGOs left the event with fully formed implementation strategies to achieve their goals.
Három Királyfi, Három Királylány Movement, which supports work-life balance, received financial growth and business development counseling from GE volunteers. Értelmi Sérültek Gyöngyház Egyesülete, which provides services for mentally and physically disabled community members, presented a need for marketing advice – how to better spread awareness on the integration of disabled citizens. Volunteering Hungary participated, too, seeking GE’s advice on how to build guidelines to help NGOs and corporations prepare for pro bono collaborations.
“GE is in a special position because they have so many people with so many skillsets,” said F. Tóth. “They have the potential to go into detail and offer an overview of projects that the NGOs might not have been able to do on their own.”
Nógrád Várának Megmentéséért Alapítvány, whose mission is to protect and restore the current condition of Nógrád caste and the tourist area surrounding it, worked with volunteers to develop a plan to implement more technology and tech knowledge to their town. This pilot example will serve as a case study for how other villages in Hungary that are behind in technological and business advances can get up to speed with the rest of the country.
F. Tóth reflected that the “the added value is the systematic and business mindset that allows GE to help NGOs grow.”
GE follows-up with participating organizations to see how they’ve used the knowledge gained during the workshop. And, participants from the first Pro Bono Marathon have reported tangible results: GE volunteers defined an exact action plan for the implementation of an Info Point project for Autisták Országos Szövetsége, which was recently successfully realized. In the future, GE plans to extend the scope of this collaboration and establish a long-term mentorship with NGO partners.
When major corporations like GE encourage employee volunteers to use their skills for social good, NGOs are able to maximize their potential and truly focus on their areas of impact. But even beyond the impact they will make is the lasting message of the power in cross-sector collaborations to improve communities around the world.