Common Impact Blog

VolunteerMatch Summit Insights: Skills-Based Speed Dating

By Danielle Holly | Feb 4, 2016

Originally published by VolunteerMatch

Skills-based volunteering is the fastest growing corporate volunteering program. More than 50% of companies offer programs that direct their employees’ talents towards solving the challenges facing their communities.  These skills – marketing, finance, technology, business strategy, to name a few – are all critically needed by nonprofits that, on average, spend a mere 2% of their budget on organizational infrastructure. Skills-based volunteering represents an opportunity for companies to make a real difference in a nonprofit’s ability to grow and thrive. At the same time, it deeply engages and develops employees who want to give back in a way that’s unique to their skillset and experience.

But I don’t need to sell you on skills-based volunteering. If you’re supporting your company’s efforts in employee engagement, philanthropy, volunteerism or leadership development, you’ve heard of skills-based volunteering. You probably have a program up and running, or have dipped your toe in the water. But do you understand how well it’s working for your nonprofit partners? Have you tested your pitch to organizations? Do you have measures in place to ensure that the employee skills you’re offering will result in real value for nonprofits and their constituents?

If you’re like most corporate professionals, the answer is probably no. And for good reason. It can be hard to get frank feedback from your nonprofit partners, who often consider it risky to seem anything but grateful for your support.

At the 2015 VolunteerMatch Summit, Common Impact and our colleagues at Realized Worth tried to make it a little easier. We brought together more than 100 corporate and nonprofit professionals and had them shop their skills-based programs to each other in a speed-dating style session. The goal: to hear real, candid feedback about what would truly work for the other side of the aisle. We started with Dating 101, a separate prep session for companies and nonprofits. Companies honed a skills-based program “pitch” that would compel nonprofits.  Nonprofits learned how to shape their unique story of impact. We then brought them into the same room to test out their newly defined pitch.

The room quickly buzzed with conversation as we stood back and watched.  At one point during the session, Angela Parker from Realized Worth turned to me. “Do you realize no one has their phone out? Every single person is completely engaged in this conversation.”

At the end of the session, a woman who runs a CSR department at a Fortune 500 company stood up and said, “When I started my pitch, I started with sharing what we could give to our nonprofit partners. My colleague held out her hand and said ‘Stop right there. Don’t tell me what you can give me. Ask me what I need. And let’s take it from there.’ I learned more with that one interaction than I have in years of my own internal program evaluation.”

That said it all.

What are your approaches to evaluating your skills-based volunteer and pro bono programs?  How do you gather feedback from your partners?