Common Impact Blog

Flash Consulting: A Day of Transformative Results

Flash Consulting: A Day of Transformative Results

By Molly Weinstein | Feb 11, 2015

An Afternoon’s Potential

What do you typically accomplish in a single afternoon? Perhaps digging yourself out of your inbox absorbs half the day. Or preparing for a meeting occupies your entire afternoon.

Or maybe, you’ve dedicated an afternoon to volunteering – picking up trash or staffing a soup kitchen. If so, you have witnessed the positive results of your contribution, as well as experienced the fulfillment that such an act brings.  Now take that impact and emotional high, and scale them tenfold. How? By adding your professional expertise and skills!

Skills as a Game-Changer

In November, Common Impact planned a Charles Schwab Skills Marathon in San Francisco: a half-day “flash-consulting” event that adapts the traditional day-of-service model to incorporate skills-based volunteerism.

While a traditional day-of-service contributes volunteer manpower, a skills-based day-of-service leverages volunteers’ mindpower, thus shifting the scope of the work being completed. Instead of tackling a general task, volunteers address specific capacity-building needs. These needs often go unmet due to funding restrictions or programmatic demands, but they are vital to an nonprofit’s ability to execute its core programs and services.

The Schwab Skills Marathon

“The strategic input that the team has given us is a valuable resource that will impact our efforts for years to come!” – Nonprofit Participant

At the Marathon, the combination of talented Schwab employees, effective nonprofits, and well-scoped projects yielded tremendous results. After an afternoon of pro-bono consulting, organizations walked away with pieces of marketing collateral which could have taken months to develop. Others left with comprehensive communications roadmaps. One organization emerged with a dynamite social media campaign that could be the next “Ice Bucket Challenge.” Further, Schwab employees left inspired to dedicate more of their time and talent to strengthening their community.

The implications of these results are profound. One of the greatest challenges in Common Impact’s work is identifying volunteers and nonprofits with the bandwidth to make a significant time commitment. Thus, by creating sustainable social value in a single afternoon, we can scale our impact on communities and touch exponentially more nonprofits and volunteers.

Success Factors

How can you adapt the traditional day-of-service model to incorporate employees’ expertise? Here are four lessons we learned about executing a skills-based event:

     1. Dedicated volunteers and nonprofits are essential to the equation. Lucky for us, we had these aplenty!

     2. The challenge being addressed must be well-scoped for the available time block. Our most successful projects addressed specific needs that supported the nonprofits in achieving their missions.

     3. Since face-to-face time is a precious commodity, the volunteers should read up on the nonprofit beforehand and ask preliminary questions prior to the event.

     4. Framing the event as a launching pad for longer-term involvement leads both sides to leverage the engagement and continue growing their relationship.

As skills-based volunteering grows in popularity, I am eager to see how high-volume, one-off models can strategically engage the corporate sector to unlock an enormous resource for nonprofits. Have you seen any particularly innovative models of skills-based volunteering? If so, tell us about it at!