Skills-based volunteers apply their business experience and specialized expertise to propel nonprofits – and their own companies – to reach new heights. Today, we hear from one such volunteer: Jes Philo, Product Manager at Allstate, who worked with the Center for Youth Wellness during a day of service hosted by Common Impact and The Allstate Foundation.
You recently participated in a Common Impact skills-based volunteering project with the Center for Youth Wellness, a San Francisco-based nonprofit that advances equitable and just policies to improve the health of children and adolescents exposed to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). What was the challenge you were collaborating on and how did you use your professional skills to solve it?
Center for Youth Wellness (CYW) was being acquired by another nonprofit and their leaders needed assistance with change management. Not only were the handbooks going to change, but the values and mission of each nonprofit varied just enough that they needed help getting to their new combined mission.
I worked with some fantastic leaders around Allstate to combine our superpowers to help address leadership roles and processes, including finding a common view, integrating measures of success, defining regular meeting cadences, and reimagining the leadership structure. My personal contribution to the CYW team as part of my larger team was introducing buddy systems to cross-pollinate team members from CYW and SafeandSound, the acquiring nonprofit. This allows for folks to build camaraderie, exchange resources, and increase response time to locate job details and responsibilities. The buddy system also ensures each staff member always has a go-to person if their management team isn’t immediately free and it helps increase the diversity of the team’s culture and learning.
How did leading this skills-based volunteering project impact you on an individual level? What was the most valuable aspect for you?
The opportunity to help any nonprofit is like a dream to me, but this one felt near and dear to my heart. CYW researches “ACES” or Adverse Childhood Experiences and provides a rating scale for each child, ranging from divorce, which is a 1, up to 7, which includes emotional and physical abuse or neglect, incarcerated relatives, substance abuse, and mental illness. I found ACES are more common than I would have though and even personally had a higher score than I would have imagined.
CYW focuses research on how ACES effect the central nervous system and pre-frontal cortex of the brain, causing an overdrive of the “fight or flight” response. As a person living with anxiety, this helped me to understand further how even something like divorce in my childhood could impact me downstream. I later listened to several of their founder’s YouTube videos and Dr. Nadine Burke is so incredibly intelligent. The work she did creating CYW will help children for years to come and their work will continue with volunteer efforts like this one, as well as continued support of their nonprofit.
What advice would you offer to someone who is interested in using their professional skills to support a nonprofit?
I highly suggest everyone utilize their professional skills to assist a nonprofit. Even if you’re newer to some elements of the tasks at hand, a fantastic group of people are placed together to collaborate and help others creatively imagine how to help their nonprofit. Although I had one very big idea that went into our recommendations for Center for Youth Wellness, I learned a tremendous amount from people who have worked for Allstate from 1 – 25 years. The ability to meet with others who have a passion for nonprofits and learn from them is priceless.
At Common Impact, we know that professional skills are superpowers. What are some of the superpowers you practice every day in your work at Allstate?
Grace – for myself and those around me! While grace isn’t a superpower, I find that without giving myself a lot of it, I either judge myself or put myself down. As a perfectionist, I need as much grace as I can give myself!