3 Steps for a Successful Day of Skilled Volunteer Service

Many of the companies we work with at Common Impact host a “day of service” as a way to give back to their local communities. Days of service are one of the most popular corporate volunteer programs. In fact, the latest edition of the CECP Giving In Numbers reports that more than 77% of US companies offer this type of opportunity to employees. While most days of service engage volunteers in projects like building a home, cleaning a local park or packing groceries at a food bank, a skills-based volunteer day of service can help address a different type of nonprofit need: capacity support.

Skills-based volunteerism focuses on building infrastructure for nonprofits that often operate with reduced resources and budgets. As a complement to hands-on volunteer service, many organizations are now expanding their community and employee engagement programs to include skills-based volunteerism. Whether building a new website or developing a new financial model, skills-based volunteerism is an effective way to ignite employees’ passion and engage their expertise by providing the opportunity to share and stretch their professional skills while making a significant, positive impact in their community.

Common Impact partner Charles Schwab has long recognized the benefits of skilled volunteerism and offers an annual opportunity through their Pro Bono Challenge. Now in its fifth year, the Pro Bono Challenge is a skills-based flash consulting event that enables Schwab employees to apply their business expertise to building capacity for nonprofits in nine different U.S. communities. In 2018, the challenge engaged nearly 400 volunteers and close to 70 nonprofits to deliver an estimated $500,000 in value.

We recently analyzed three years of data from the Charles Schwab Pro Bono Challenge and are excited to share a few of the lessons we learned along the way on designing a day of skilled service that delivers long-term impact for your organization and partners.

First, consider using the day as a launchpad for ongoing volunteer engagement.

A day of service can be an excellent opportunity to engage a new partner in your immediate capacity needs while also finding ways to spark future collaborations. Schwab positions the Pro Bono Challenge event as a start to ongoing collaboration by providing training to participating volunteers and nonprofits on how to continue their work together after the event concludes, as well as seed funds to support the implementation of the work that was defined during the event. The results? Over 55% of participating nonprofits continue partnering with their event volunteers as they become board members, cause advocates and funders. Schwab also provides participating nonprofits a $1,000 grant to allow them to more effectively implement the capacity-building projects and consultation delivered during the event.

Second, measure and communicate your results from the day and beyond.

The true impact of skilled volunteering isn’t always immediately measurable, but surfaces after the capacity building projects have been implemented. While the immediate post-event results are always strong in measuring volunteer engagement and nonprofit satisfaction metrics, ensure you are also tracking long-term results for your organization. Six months after each Pro Bono Challenge, Common Impact follows up with participating nonprofits and volunteers to understand if the initially reported impact has been realized. Capturing and reporting this data can enable your corporate partner to understand both how their projects are improving your outcomes, as well as their employees sustained talent development benefits. If you are unsure what of what data to track, Common Impact has a useful Measurement Framework for ideas on how to assess talent development, employee engagement, and community impact from your day of service.

Third, connect your current corporate partners with skilled volunteer needs.

Charles Schwab leverages the Pro Bono Challenge as a way to reinforce their local grantmaking and employee engagement activities. Nonprofits invited to the event are typically current nonprofit partners, prospective grantees or employee-nominated organizations. Working with these organizations to solve capacity challenges enables Schwab to more deeply understand their current and potential partners’ needs and operating models, leading to more informed and responsive partnership and investment. By reaching out to your current corporate partners to understand their community and employee engagement goals and to honestly share your infrastructure needs, you may be able to find ways to deepen engagement and build stronger relationships through skilled service opportunities.

If you are interested in learning more, please read our report — Making Long-Term Impact through a Day of Service, which shares data, case studies and lessons learned from our work with the Charles Schwab Pro Bono Challenge and is available to help organizations find new ways to engage volunteers in shorter-term skilled engagements that provide measurable longer-term results.

And if you have tips of your own (or feedback on our report), please share them below. We are always looking for new ways to make a day of skilled service effective for all parties involved and look forward to your comments.