I’m off to the White House today.  And the topic is one of my favorites – pro bono service or, in layperson’s terms, how employees at companies large and small give their time and professional talents to help nonprofits thrive.

Today, representatives from the public sector, corporations, small business and nonprofits are gathering for a summit, hosted by the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships and the Department of Commerce’s Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, with support from A Billion + Change.  We’re gathering to talk about “Pro Bono Service: Harnessing Time and Talent for Social Good.”

In the end, it’s all about social good, about investing in the fabric of our communities to make them better, about finding new, different and often more compelling ways to volunteer, to serve.  And, in the wake of another Memorial Day where we remember those who sacrificed for us, well, I think a focus on service is important.

Pro bono (or skills-based volunteerism) has long been a key part of many companies’ corporate social responsibility (CSR) toolkits.  Leaders such as IBM Corporation, Deloitte Consulting and Hewlett-Packard have showed us the way, helping us see how this special kind of service not only gives back, but also increases employee engagement and helps develop leadership skills.  In fact, many firms use pro bono projects, on their own or in conjunction with groups like The Taproot Foundation, Common Impact or CatchaFire, as a part of their high potential employee programs.

But pro bono isn’t just for the big guys, a key message A Billion+Change works to convey.  In fact, more than half of the companies that have taken the pro bono pledge are small businesses.  And this, more than anything, says to me that nonprofits looking for really helpful talent probably have it right in front of them, in the communities where they live and work.  They are the people working at the emerging tech firm down the street, the small business owner who always engages in community work, the CPAs, HR representatives, marketing folks, salespeople and facilities managers who walk into the doors of all those place of business around you.  They are the potential faces of your next pro bono project.

At Blackbaud, our most recent pro bono champs come from our Products team, the group that scopes, designs, codes, tests and launches technology solutions that power the business of philanthropy.  The project is called Camp Blackbaud, a STEM initiative for middle school students from Title 1 schools done in partnership with Charleston Promise Neighborhood.  Our goal is simple, to help the nonprofit expose kids to careers in tech while encouraging them to go to college.

This is only one example of the kind of work we do.  Another is Camp Blackbaud for Nonprofits, which turns the focus on the staff at nonprofits, using our professional skill to share insights about HR, marketing and other topics that are relevant to organizations of any type or size.

So if you’re a nonprofit leader that doesn’t have a pro bono program in place, think about changing that.  There are people out there looking to help.  If you need some final inspiration, check out this eBook we produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners to celebrate #GivingTuesday.  The stories are all about how small businesses make a big impact.


Rachel Hutchisson is the vice president of corporate citizenship and philanthropy at Blackbaud, headquartered in Charleston, SC.  She is responsible for the company’s global corporate citizenship efforts, a role that allows her to leverage her 20+ years of experience of working with nonprofit partners.  She is a member of the board of directors for the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International, the Giving Institute (producers of Giving USA), and the Coastal Community Foundation.  She is also a Past President of the AFP SC Lowcountry chapter. Rachel is a graduate of Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, and received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.  A member of Phi Beta Kappa, she is a Renaissance Weekend participant and was the recipient of the Charleston Regional Business Journal’s Influential Women in Business Rising Star Award.  Rachel is an avid soccer fan and spends far too much time driving to remote parts of the state to watch her children play.  Connect with Rachel on Twitter at @RachelHutchssn or on LinkedIn.

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