From A Thousand Points of Light Toward New Innovations in National Service and Social Impact

Feb 27, 2012

Jackie NorrisToday’s guest post is written by Jackie Norris, the Executive Director at the Points of Light Corporate Institute, an Iowan by way of NY, Mom to 3 Boys, Previous Chief of Staff to Michelle Obama. You can find her on twitter: @MsJackieNorris

When President George H. W. Bush invoked a thousand points of light in 1989, he set off a movement of individuals, nonprofits and corporations working together to create positive change in our communities through volunteer service. He was also the catalyst for launching Points of Light, which is today the nation’s leading volunteer organization dedicated to inspiring, equipping and mobilizing people to take action to change the world.

More than 20 years later, the need for volunteer service is greater than ever before. Every sector of our society is facing serious challenges, from our uncertain path toward economic recovery and social unrest at home and abroad, to the cultural and demographic forces shaping our society and workplaces. But as the decades have brought more complex challenges, they have also brought innovations in service and deep commitments from the private sector to take a greater role in creating a more sustainable world.

A Billion + Change is a great example of the kind of innovation and of the growing scale of commitments taking place in the nonprofit, business and service sector. A Billion + Change is a national campaign to mobilize billions of dollars of pro bono and skills-based services by 2013. It is challenging and inspiring companies to lend their most valuable assets—their talent and their human capital—to help nonprofits achieve more with scarce resources, so they can be effective agents of change.

The scale of corporate commitments to this campaign so far has been significant. In November 2011, 50 companies had pledged more than $1 billion worth of skills-based volunteer services to build nonprofit capacity. Today, on International Corporate Philanthropy Day, the campaign will announce progress toward its overall goal of having 500 companies pledge to create or expand a pro bono program. Together, these companies are stepping up to inspire the largest commitment of corporate pro bono service in history.

There is also a lot to be said about encouraging companies and employees to lend their professional skills to build nonprofit capacity. For nonprofits, the value of skilled support in areas such as general operations, technology and professional services can be 400% greater than the value of traditional volunteering. So in a real sense, A Billion + Change is redefining what it means to help.

Morgan Stanley, whose annual Strategy Challenge is an excellent example of the value skills-based volunteering can have on nonprofits. Since it began in 2009, this initiative has used the financial analysis and business strategy expertise of its talented professionals to deliver more than 14,500 hours of skills-based volunteer services to nonprofits. These services are worth approximately $2.2 million, and have been contributed to 36 nonprofits across the nation. A team of Morgan Stanley employees participating in the Strategy Challenge was able to save New York-based New York Cares $30,000 annually by recommending improvements to its volunteer on-boarding process in 2009.

Pledge companies are delivering high-impact volunteer services like this daily to address every aspect of community needs, from education and healthcare to economic and community development programs and programs helping victims of domestic abuse.

I ask you to ask yourselves: have you, as an employee, an employer or as a civic leader, thought about how you or your company can contribute your skills, knowledge and talent to join the growing pro bono movement? To learn more, visit A Billion + Change online, and take part.