By Nikke DeYear
The vibrant energy of the Charles Schwab Pro Bono Challenge makes it one of the Common Impact team’s favorite events of the year—or so I was told as a new employee.
While prepping for this year’s series of nine Day of Skilled Service events spanning Charles Schwab locations from coast to coast, it’s impossible not to notice the eager dedication of Schwabbies ready to hit the ground running on projects for their nonprofit partners. Before anyone walks in the door on the morning of the event, hours of preparation have been spent, dozens of emails have been sent, more than one name tag has been changed three or four times, and a handful of in-person sessions have already been attended (seriously, our partners are go-getters).
Young, bright-eyed nonprofit professional that I am, the idea of walking into a room full of people ready to spend hours working on things like website assessments and action plans was alluring and I was thrilled to serve as the Common Impact lead for the 2018 Indianapolis Pro Bono Challenge. Luckily for me and my well-meaning naivety, Common Impact’s regional Schwab partner for Indianapolis is Dave Gudal—one-part Schwabbie, one-part Community Service Superhero who leads his team with the slogan #MakeItHappen.
Make it happen we did, and just like I had been promised by my peers, the Pro Bono Challenge was indeed an inspiring event. Teams dig into their work with gusto and nonprofits revel in a well-deserved moment to feel heard and valued.
As the day concludes, we like to wrap up the Pro Bono Challenge by sharing reflections as a group. A moment to hear from our participants about the impact the day gives everyone the space to reflect on (or think about) the shared learning that happens during cross-sector engagements and the possibility of future projects.
Many of our participants responded with statements that we at Common Impact get to hear often, yet at which we never fail to marvel:
- Nonprofits are thrilled and amazed by the team’s deliverables
- Teams are astounded by the impact nonprofits make with such little overhead
- Both parties would never have imagined that a single day could yield such immediately practical results, forge such strong partnerships, or be so much fun in the process.
As we trickled around the room, however, our conversation took a turn a different turn. One of our Schwab volunteers stood up to thank his nonprofit partner for their service to the community. A small, dedicated, and almost entirely volunteer team of professionals leads the Hamilton County Harvest Food Bank, which operates in a community where more than 28,000 residents are food insecure. This volunteer shared that working with this team made him realize that they were serving people in the community just like he and his family.
His sincerity and emotion led other Schwab volunteers to stand up and voice similar sentiments: thanking their nonprofit team and sharing how much they learned about the challenges in the community. One by one, volunteers stood up to express their gratitude.
Then, one volunteer stood up to share something special:
“I’ll try to do this without crying,” he started.
He proceeded to share that he had lost his son to suicide. He wanted to say that he was grateful to his nonprofit partner, Reach for Youth, for their service to young people and investment in mental health. Immediately, his Schwab community enclosed around him: a colleague from across the room got up to walk over, hold his hand, and lay her head on his shoulder as he spoke. And for that moment, none of us had titles or roles: we were just people with stories of loss and triumph and a desire to make the good outweigh the bad.
I am not a novice to facilitating meetings but must have missed the course module on What to do if You’re Crying but Still Have to Run the Show.
We think of ourselves and each other in those boxes of titles and job descriptions but the reality is that our full potential lies beyond those lines. And that makes us more same than different. We all have the capacity to care, even if we don’t work in the nonprofit sector. We all have the capacity to achieve great business success, even if we don’t work in the corporate sector. We can all can all act in service to our community and benefit from making the place where we live a better place to live.
That at 2:00 p.m. on a Thursday, in a room full of bright blue T-shirts and flipcharts, we can create a moment of deep and profound human connection means that we are doing something right. It’s easy to get lost between the storytelling of the big picture and the tedious everyday email backlog, but what we do at Common Impact is ultimately about individuals.
You, the human and the professional, are the beating heart that matters to us. You, your bravery, your skills, your talent, your happiness: those are the things that bring us to the office every day to make more spreadsheets and send more meeting invites.
Thank you for your presence, your dedication, and your constant reminder of what really matters.
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