Common Impact Blog

Pro Bono Perspectives: Rachel Hutchisson

A Series

By Common Impact Guest Blogger | Sep 17, 2015

We all know that skills-based volunteering is a great idea for companies, its people and, most importantly, the nonprofits that deliver critical services every day to our communities.  Still, whether you’re excited to bring a skills-based volunteer program to your company, become a skills-based volunteer yourself or find professionals to help move your nonprofit organization to the next stage, it can be hard to figure out how to take that first step in making SBV a truly effective resource for you! 

Common Impact is excited to launch Pro Bono Perspectives, a series of profiles – people like you – who took a leap into skills-based volunteering.  From intrapreneurs, to entrepreneurs, to nonprofit executives, to corporate leaders – these individuals all have their own stories to tell, successes to share, lessons they’ve learned and tools they’ve used. 

Meet Rachel Hutchisson.  As the Vice President of Corporate Citizenship and Philanthropy at Blackbaud, Rachel built a skills-based program from the ground up – with limited resources and unlimited vision.  Hear her story, and learn why skills-based volunteering is all around us – and why it’s just like star Chef Jamie Oliver. 

Describe your work and what drives you. 

I have the pleasure of running Blackbaud’s corporate social responsibility, a strategic function I have built over the years as the company has grown from an entrepreneurial start up to a publicly traded company.  I have a fundamental belief that “good is for everyone."

What was your first exposure to Pro Bono?


I, realize, looking back at my life, that I have grown up surrounded by skills-based volunteerism.  Before I knew what nonprofits were, I knew that my parents were engaged in the community with their peers, seeking to lead the public library through difficult economic times and to ensure the future services of organizations like the senior citizens center and a literacy organization.  As a middle school student, I knew that when my mother was in the dining room with an adult client (teaching him how to read), I was to give them privacy.

At Blackbaud, over the years, we have led a number of initiatives that – also looking back – I would now call skills-based volunteerism.  The term itself seems to have risen in popularity over the last 5-10 years.  When A Billion Plus Change asked us to make a pledge about 4 years ago, our reaction was, “of course, we already do this work.”

 Why did you become “hooked” on Pro Bono / Skills-Based Volunteering?


I am a huge fan of skills-based volunteerism for two equally important reasons.  1) It results in a much more meaningful contribution to the nonprofit, both in terms of the cost value of the skill and the last impact it makes.  2)  It results in a much more meaningful experience for the volunteer who can see that he or she did something that is of real financial and lasting value. 

What has been most rewarding about participating in a Pro Bono program?


First and foremost, it is the genuine thanks from the nonprofit partner when the organization realizes what you were uniquely able to do and what a lasting impact it will make. The second reward is the reaction of the staff involved, who are excited to learn that they truly do have skills to offer that are of help to a nonprofit (many don’t realize this when approached about a project for some reason, which is a shame).  Skills-based volunteerism done well truly is a win-win for the nonprofit and the company alike.

What was most challenging, in your role, about leveraging or participating in a Pro Bono program?


The biggest challenge we face is identifying and scoping projects that also meet the skills of our employees and also fit in with the time and attention they can give them.  Nonprofits don’t typically know they can ask for volunteers with key skills, so we are left to approach organizations with ideas.  It takes a good partner to figure out where their needs align with what you have to offer.

If someone was in your shoes, looking to get started with skills-based volunteering for the first time, what advice would you give or tool would you point them to?


I would advise them to keep it as simple as possible, not worrying that they may not be a big company or have massive amounts of resources.  Start with a smaller initiative, scoping what the goal is and also tracking what happens along the way to learn how scope can shift.  For small businesses, I would point them to and the eBook I published with A Billion Plus Change and Riggs Partners as inspiration for how small businesses can give back – Small Business Big Purpose.

 If Pro Bono were a celebrity, who would it be and why?

Jamie Oliver – he’s current, socially minded, and has turned his love for food into a passion for providing quality nutrition in the school.

Stay tuned for Rachel’s full story and access to Common Impact’s tools for corporate leaders later this month when we launch Pro Bono Perspectives!