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Pro Bono Week 2020: A Snapshot of Skills-Based Volunteering in the COVID-19 Era

By Common Impact | November 19, 2020

Pro Bono Week 2020 came at a time of unprecedented difficulty and uncertainty, but in spite of that – or even for that very reason – it produced some of the strongest, most inspiring, and most necessary cross-sector collaborations we’ve ever witnessed. Corporate, public sector, and nonprofit professionals participated in everything from webinars and conferences to skills-based volunteering projects ranging a day or a week or several months, all in the name of better supporting their communities through COVID-19, racial injustice, and intractable societal challenges.

Thank you to all those who took precious time out of their busy schedules to make a difference this Pro Bono Week.

Dive into some of the highlights to learn about the projects we worked on, their results, and insights to guide your pro bono programming in the new year.

Skills for Cities

Dedicated to supporting racial justice and BIPOC-led nonprofits facing the double pandemic of racism and COVID-19, this year’s Skills for Cities saw 100 skills-based volunteers from 11 companies join forces with 14 community organizations for a value of over $145,000 in pro bono services. The skills-based volunteering projects addressed key business needs like revamping marketing collateral, improving and adjusting client communications in response to COVID-19, increasing donor engagement, streamlining volunteer programs, and refining performance review processes.

“This year’s Skills for Cities impacted my understanding by confirming the extraordinary challenges brought about by systemic racism and opened my eyes to how nonprofits have additional challenges navigating during these times.” – Skills for Cities volunteer

One of the highlights of the day was “From Narrative to Action,” a fireside chat featuring Ranjini Govender of Next Level Social Impact, Cecily Joseph of Presidio, and Mike Sebring of Citizens and moderated by Common Impact CEO Danielle Holly. These DEI leaders had a candid conversation on some of the difficult aspects of their work – like translating intent around racial justice into real action – and how they are creating more equitable workplaces and communities. Watch the full fireside chat here.

Even though Skills for Cities 2020 was fully virtual, the spirit and dedication of our corporate and nonprofit participants was stronger than ever. 100% of volunteer respondents said working on a cross-company team was beneficial to them and 100% considered Skills for Cities a valuable professional development opportunity with the top skills improved including:

  • Adaptability & synthesizing ideas in real-time
  • Client focus & empathetic approach
  • Collaboration & teamwork
  • Creative thinking & innovation

92% of volunteer respondents felt more inclined to recommend their company as a great place to work because of their Skills for Cities experience. Said one, “It was great to have an actionable virtual volunteer event that felt like we could make just as big of an impact virtually as we could in person. I appreciated getting to know a nonprofit organization and working with people from different companies.”

Most importantly, racial justice and BIPOC-led community organizations received vital capacity-building support at a historically difficult time. “We appreciated being able to tap into knowledgeable talent at no cost to us other than our time. These types of resources and opportunities are very beneficial, particularly to a group like us [whose] resources are oftentimes limited,” reflected one nonprofit leader.

Skills for Cities 2020 was made possible through the generous support and engagement of John Hancock, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Citizens, State Street Corporation, ViacomCBS, Berkshire Bank, BNY Mellon, Fidelity Investments, Cigna, Philadelphia Insurance Companies, and TIAA.

In collaboration with our partners, much more Pro Bono Week goodness was accomplished. Here are a few highlights:

  • Common Impact and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation hosted the third annual – and first virtual – Making Good Happen at Work conference. This year’s event featured themes like continuing CSR during COVID-19 and building an anti-racist culture through service and giving. Following the conference, we introduced Making Good Happen at Work 2: A Guide to Building an Employee Service and Giving Program.
  • Just before Pro Bono Week, we held our first-ever multi-national pitch competition where 150 skills-based volunteers from Eigen Technologies’ UK and US offices vied to create the strongest, most effective solutions to the business challenges of three nonprofits: Hands on London, Inspiring Scotland, and Custom Collaborative (New York). “This was a genuinely unique and absolutely exhilarating experience,” said an Inspiring Scotland staff member. “I’m completely in awe of what people were able to produce – really creative and I think we’re going to use some of what everyone put forward.” Check out #ProBonoAcrossThePond to learn more about the exciting half-day engagement.

If you are interested in being part of our next Skills for Cities event in April 2021 or planning your own pitch competition or social impact convening, please reach out to Shaivi Kapadia.