Common Impact Blog

The CSR Scoop - 7/29/2015

By Jacquelyn Hodgson | Jul 29, 2015

Common Impact’s Jackie Hodgson is guest writing this week’s SCOOP, and has everything you need to get you over the Wednesday hump.  Read on to learn more about the supply and demand of skilled volunteers, the new focus on multivocal leadership skills, and more!

The Scoop:


The number of professionals raising their hands to volunteer their skills and expertise in the nonprofit sector is exponentially rising. In fact, over six million people on LinkedIn have self-identified as willing to donate Pro Bono services. And, as we know, there is a large need for these capacity building skills in the nonprofit sector. Why, then, are there far fewer opportunities to volunteer (currently about 55,000 listings) than there are volunteers ready to engage?  It’s a gap that Common Impact sees every day in its work, and Sarah Murray, in this Financial Times article, explores this discrepancy in supply and demand.

The bottom line:  It takes significant effort (training, time and capacity) for nonprofit organizations to make the most of skills-based volunteers. 

Non-profits need help in becoming “employee ready” and in presenting activities and volunteering opportunities effectively to businesses.”

How do we bridge this readiness gap so that nonprofit organizations can take advantage of the booming supply of pro bono volunteers? As a first step, check out Common Impact’s organizational readiness wizard, a self-assessment tool for nonprofits considering skills based volunteering.  And then, check out the rest of the Readiness Roadmap – a go to resource for nonprofits who are engaging skills based volunteers for the first time!

Known as the socially conscious generation, a large portion of the aforementioned six million skilled volunteers on LinkedIn are Millennials. Offering corporate volunteering and giving programs are vital to engaging this generation, but what Ryan Scott reports in this article might surprise you. The 2015 Millennial Impact Report found that it is not enough to simply offer volunteer programs for Millennials, but a supportive environment around volunteering is also critical to garner their support and participation. Interestingly enough, this support is more influential if it comes from peers rather than top executives and CEOs.

In fact, “27% of Millennial employees said they are more likely to donate to a cause if their supervisor does while 46% of employees are likely to donate if a coworker asks them to.”

Scott goes on to outline six tips (provided by the Millennial Impact Report) to ensure a company develops programs that garner this supportive environment for volunteerism that is critical for Millennial participation. One of these tips highlights the need for short-term skills-based volunteering opportunities and highlights integrating skills-based projects into day of service opportunities (much like those which Common Impact develops with our clients) as a strategy to engage Millennials.

Skills-based volunteering fills a critical capacity building need in the nonprofit sector.  This need exists because of a historical funding practice in the nonprofit sector that restricts usage of funding to direct programming versus vital indirect costs (staff salaries, measurement, and even rent/utilities). These indirect costs are critical to running any successful business, so why is the nonprofit sector expected to operate without them?

 In a recent article, Antony Bugg-Levine and Kerry Sullivan, discuss ways in which the corporate sector can better partner with nonprofits, beyond skills-based volunteering, to overcome this capacity building need. The authors share three compelling suggestions for “Improving Corporate-Nonprofit Partnerships” that focus on increasing flexibility and freedom of donations to allow for organizational growth and development, instead of solely program improvement. Overall, the article states that rejecting standard practices and releasing restrictions on nonprofit funding would not only benefit the nonprofit sector, but also society as a whole, allowing our social sector to operate more efficiently and to scale effectively to better serve our community.

“Ultimately, if we want better social outcomes, nonprofits need room to evaluate existing efforts, responsibly experiment with new approaches, invest in scaling proven services, and undertake other bold efforts to move the bar.”

In “Why Purpose Driven Companies are often more Successful,” Sherry Hakimi highlights the positive business effects of operating with a strong sense of purpose. Seventh Generation, Acumen, Etsy, and Google are featured as model purpose-driven organizations that mobilize employees and customers in a “pursuit of purpose, alongside the pursuit of profit.”

“A purpose mobilizes people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will.” 

The author details four best practices to developing a purpose driven company; being authentic, hiring employees who fit the organization’s culture, creating shared value, and developing a compelling narrative centered on purpose. Looking at these best practices, it is clear that skills-based volunteering and employee engagement programs can both be used as tools to develop a company’s purpose but also, these programs should be developed themselves with a company’s purpose in mind. I wonder whether it’s a best practice to define a company’s purpose before developing employee engagement programs? Or, instead, if these programs themselves help to define this purpose –or perhaps a melding of the two? This seems to be a chicken and egg situation.…what do you think?

And who are the business leaders that can help build that purpose within a company?  In a recent HBR article, Brian Uzzi discusses the importance of “Multivocal Leadership.” The multivocal leader has the ability to act as a broker of skills amongst teammates or colleagues as to pool the collective knowledge and capabilities of the team towards a larger goal. This style of leadership evolves largely around having strong emotional intelligence, being able to understand and empathize with other people’s styles and talents to create a supportive and trusting team environment.

Many of Common Impact’s corporate clients that are tasked with developing the future leadership of their companies use pro bono projects to develop this multivocal skill.  What better way to hone this skill -- to step into someone else’s shoes, to cultivate support among different stakeholders, and to design creative solutions -- than supporting the growth of a nonprofit organization?  We’re glad this skill set – which is rarely called out, but so critical to the work that we do in every sector – finally has a name. 



Be Social Change and The Awesome Foundation NYC are hosting a Happy Hour at The Grafton Public House in NYC in August. This is a great opportunity to network and connect with other social-minded professionals and to learn about upcoming professional development opportunities with Be Social Change!
August 18, New York

The 23rd annual Net Impact conference is coming up this Fall in Seattle Washington. Each year, students, professionals, and social sector leaders gather at the Net Impact Conference to discuss and collaborate on social sector trends.
November 5-7, Seattle

The Guardian is hosting a public event in London this fall to bring together an expert panel to discuss business’ responsibility to society. The What Motivates the Private Sector to do Social Good?  panel will debate what motivates businesses to perform social good and how businesses can be encouraged to do more.
September 24, London