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United Way Blog

When Professional Skills Promote the Public Good

A half-century ago, United Way created a simple concept that revolutionized philanthropy by letting employees contribute to affiliated cause groups through payroll deductions.

Today, employees can still give through their workplaces, but new trends in corporate philanthropy have emerged. First, more organizations offer flexible scheduling for volunteer work and pro bono services. This means more people can participate in volunteer programs. 

Why does this matter? When organizations support volunteerism, the prospects for sustainable social change improve dramatically. And while company days of service are fantastic, it’s even better when those same volunteers can share not only their hearts and their hands, but their professional skills.

Skills-based volunteering taps the expertise, talents and training of individuals to help nonprofits deliver on their mission. Opportunities include: 

  • Mentoring students interested in a particular field of work
  • Judging a science fair
  • Serving on a nonprofit board
  • Pro bono consulting services for legal representation, information technology or marketing and communications.

Skills-based volunteering can be complex, however. Integrating corporate talent with nonprofit culture takes an understanding of both environments and the finesse to meet the needs of both parties. United Way helps bridge the gap by developing programs for companies that match employee skills with volunteer opportunities.

For example, United Way of Metro Chicago and United Way of the National Capital Area identified nonprofits’ needs that could be met by teams of Deloitte employees. The Deloitte teams worked directly with local organizations for six weeks to boost efficiency, deliver solutions to technology and improve reporting and communications.

One team worked with Center for Changing Lives to create a social media strategy that identified audiences, goals for posting, and best practices to maximize community engagement. Another fixed issues with a community service organization’s client management database, designed custom reports summarizing demographics, and laid out best practices to better track client's participation in programs. 

Skills-based volunteering is widely recognized as a powerful way to create and sustain social change and provide value to companies and employees. As we celebrate pro bono work and skills-based volunteering around the world, I hope you’ll consider how to use your own professional skills for good.

Inspired by what you read? Change starts with you. Take action today to make a difference in your community.