Our Initiatives


Janelle Woods-McNish

Director of Service and Giving, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation

Janelle launched Harvard Pilgrim's Skills-Based volunteer program by having a vision of what it would bring to the company, its employees and its communities.

Janelle Woods-McNish

I was drawn to the idea of utilizing a company’s most critical asset, its employees, to help build capacity of nonprofits.

Describe your work and what drives you.

As the Director of Service and Giving at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, a nationally recognized health care services organization, I lead and oversee the company's community involvement initiatives. As the bridge between my company and local communities, I create innovative and impactful ways in to increase employee engagement while also making an impact in areas where Harvard Pilgrim employees live and do business. I was drawn to the idea of utilizing a company’s most critical asset, its employees, to help build capacity of nonprofits. While our employee volunteer program was only being formed, I had a vision to make this part of our future program. In 2014, I was able to take this vision and create a very successful pilot program that will be fully integrated into our company in 2016.

What was your first exposure to Pro Bono?

Seven years ago, I transitioned from a career in higher education to CSR. As a newcomer to the field, I had no idea what I was getting myself into so I immediately began researching best practices and trends. Pro Bono and Skills-Based volunteering surfaced as a new trend that was gaining traction outside of traditional companies such as law firms. ...Read more

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

Being able to see the long-term benefits of a Pro Bono program, from both the nonprofit and employee’s perspective, has been most rewarding for me. While I work diligently to craft projects that truly meet the needs of both parties, it is impossible to predict the true outcome of these projects. Fortunately, all of our projects have been successful, receiving glowing feedback and results from both from our colleagues and nonprofit partners.

What was truly remarkable is seeing the impact of the projects long after the project is over. One example is an instance where an HPHC employee assisted a local nonprofit with designing a new strategic plan. A year later, we are seeing the results of the plan and the implementation of it. The nonprofit created a strategy that enabled them to secure additional funding which means more services provided for more members. The HPHC employee gained presentation and project management competencies that she is able to translate to her current job assignments. Furthermore, she is still involved with the nonprofit and has become a champion and advocate for their work.

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

It can be challenging to manage expectations. Ensuring that projects are properly scoped and expectations are clearly communicated was both a challenge in crafting this program but also proved to be one of the extremely worthwhile component of the Pro-Bono program.

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?

No, this is not a paid advertisement, but I would honestly send anyone interested in learning more about Pro-Bono work to contact Common Impact. Whether you are from the nonprofit or corporate world, they have the tools and expertise to guide anyone—both seasoned and new professionals—in this space.

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

It would totally be George Lucas. A celebrity in his own right, he is an acclaimed director who creates classics that he continues to reinvent. He does all of this behind the scenes. Like many nonprofits and the Pro Bono volunteers who support their work, much of what they do is done behind the scenes, but is a critical part of a creating positive lasting legacy in local communities.

Plus, I am a huge Star Wars fan!

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