College student Hanna Gao works with Roberto Melgar, 17y, as Deloitte employees and college students volunteer during spring break to help high school students get on a college track, at Wheaton High School. (Evy Mages/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

Jean Case is the CEO of the Case Foundation, which she and her husband Steve Case founded in 1997. She helped lead the initial launch of A Billion + Change in 2008 during her tenure as chair of the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation, and continues to serve on the organization’s leadership committee, which is chaired by Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.).

Nonprofits are raising less money than they did before the recession, while facing a greater demand for their services. Meanwhile, businesses are confronted with the challenges of attracting and retaining best-in-class talent and differentiating their products and services in order to stay competitive.

Recognizing the need to support and strengthen communities through these difficult times, appointed leaders from the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation convened groups involved in the 2008 Summit on Corporate Volunteerism to pose a question to the nonprofit sector: What do you need to effectively scale and build sustainability? Perhaps surprisingly to some, the answer wasn’t “more donations,” but instead nonprofits identified that they lacked critical talent in strategic areas of importance ranging from marketing and technology to finance, business planning and recruiting.

The expansion of pro bono—when a company enables its employees to volunteer their skills to nonprofits in need—represents a new brand of creativity in partnership between the business and social sectors. Lending expertise and human capital to a nonprofit is not just for Fortune 500 companies. Companies of all sizes and from any industry can get involved by giving their time and skills-based service to local nonprofits.

Large corporations have led the way in enabling their employees to provide thousands of hours of pro bono service to nonprofits. Companies such as Deloitte, IBM, and Morgan Stanley have collectively provided more than $300 million worth of pro bono time. But smaller companies with a serious commitment are also beginning to lead the charge to increase skills-based volunteering in their communities. For example, the Omaha-based software investment fund Nebraska Global has 51 full-time employees. But, over the past 18 months, those employees have volunteered over 4,500 hours to local nonprofits like the Teammates Mentoring Program and the Boys & Girls Club of Lincoln. As a software investment fund, Nebraska Global leverages its team’s technical talent by contributing skills-based volunteering to organizations working to create a better quality of life for local youth. The company believes so much in the value skills-based volunteering that it has committed to expanding the pie. They plan to lead a campaign to recruit 100 Nebraska businesses to commit to starting or expanding their own pro bono programs so as to provide even more resources to local nonprofits doing great work in their communities.

In our increasingly connected and technologically-advanced culture, we need even more collaborations like this to tackle the world’s most pressing problems. Every day, we’re seeing that more often than not, the most valuable asset a company can provide is their people, and those skills can have a much broader and more impactful reach through volunteering employees’ time to nonprofits in need of extra support. Simultaneously, companies can use these collaborations to create leaders and teams through professional development, to recruit new talent, and to design innovative products and services. Through these “good guy” efforts, companies are differentiated both as employers and as providers of goods and services in ways that matter in today’s marketplace.

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