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Council Post: Volunteering Tech And Professional Skills To Drive Social Impact

Nigeria Student Forum / General Discussion / Council Post: Volunteering Tech And Professional Skills To Drive Social Impact

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Sani Ibrahim
Abubakar Tafawa Balewa,University
Agricultural economics and extension
100Level, Nigeria.
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Technology is vital to the sustainability of the social sector. In
the United States, nonprofits are the third largest employer ,
accounting for over $2 trillion of the economy. The success of
the nonprofit sector is critical to maintaining economic
stability, while helping communities thrive. Unfortunately, the
lack of technical staff, financial constraints and difficulty with
customization limits growth, as they cannot reach the
possibilities that technology can deliver.
Social distancing has only amplified these challenges with
staff disruptions, decreased revenue and diminished volunteer
support. In fact, a report from Volunteer Match found that 93%
of nonprofits saw volunteer cancellations. With depleted
financial and human capital, it’s more difficult than ever to
implement the technology that is vital to the stabilization and
evolution of the social sector.
Pro bono volunteerism — the term for the volunteering of
professional skills — offers a solution. By providing
professional services, especially those that enable a necessary
digital transformation, individuals and teams can build
community capacity to navigate these challenging times. Many
of these services can be offered remotely and can give
volunteers an opportunity to give back to their community in
high-impact ways.
Corporations in this pandemic environment are uniquely
positioned to push pro bono volunteerism further. By
implementing programs that offer technology and skilled
support, corporations can build strong ties with the community
and further social impact goals. Pro bono programs have also
been shown to increase employee engagement, while creating
an opportunity for employees to build skills in communication,
problem-solving, leadership and more. It truly benefits
everyone involved.
In order to create impactful pro bono programs, there are a
few best practices to keep in mind.
Community-Led Solutions Are Stickier
When partnering with a nonprofit, listening and prioritizing their
needs to develop customized and curated community
solutions is critical. In the social sector, these solutions are
often life-changing and mission-critical. The challenges these
organizations face are complex and can significantly alter the
lives of the individuals and communities they serve.
Collaboration and a clear plan of action might always be your
first step, but pro bono engagements require leaning into the
expertise of the nonprofit and a clear prioritization of needs.
While collaboration is often thought of as an in-person
exercise, there’s been plenty of success taking things online.
One of my company’s programs that brings together
community stakeholders to co-design digital solutions for
addressing tough social challenges had to pivot their most
recent lab to a virtual event. They met over video and
collaborated with digital collaboration tools. By adapting to a
virtual environment, pro bono volunteers can facilitate
discussions and ideate solutions with human service
providers, local public agencies, researchers and grantmakers.
Teach A Nonprofit To Digitize Today, Serve The World
When creating a plan for a nonprofit, remember that they have
to use the deliverable after the project is complete. Limited
resources means the margin of error around maintenance is
large. Well-planned knowledge transfer mitigates that risk.
Start with a simple solution that can be scaled with training,
documentation and a roadmap. The ideal pro bono
engagement identifies a deliverable that sets the nonprofit up
for long-term success.
Common Impact, one of our clients and an organization that
helps businesses build and sustain pro bono programs,
intentionally designs projects that build long-term capacity —
not just a solution for immediate challenges. They recently
matched StartOut, an organization that creates programming
for the LGBTQIA+ community, with skilled volunteers from
JPMorgan Chase. While the three-month virtual volunteering
project focused on assessing cities for StartOut’s expansion,
the volunteers also built a model so the nonprofit can be self-
sufficient in evaluating future expansion.
One of our pro bono teams recently worked with a university to
resolve silos between admissions and scholarships. A team
from Germany flew to Argentina to meet with stakeholders
onsite across the University. They brought scholarship data
onto the same platform as recruiting and admissions,
automated the import of admissions data and created a clear
roadmap for the university team, so they could grow the
platform in the future.
Like Dating, Find The Perfect Match
A common challenge in the pro bono space is knowing where
to start, or how to find opportunities that align with skills that
also solve acute issues in the social sector. In this case, a
company can act as a matchmaker between an organization in
need, and an employee best suited to do the work. This can
be accomplished by creating direct partnerships with local
organizations that align with social impact goals, or by
partnering with an organization like Taproot Foundation,
another one of our clients.
Taproot built a platform, called Taproot Plus, that connects
skilled volunteers with nonprofits. For example, an employee
who works in investment banking used his finance and data
analysis skills to build a fundraising pitch deck for Latinas on
the Verge of Excellence (L.O.V.E.). He also built a data
management framework to help the organization start a data
collection and analysis program, which helps them
quantitatively prove the impact on their community (remember
what I mentioned about sustainable solutions?).
This can be further scaled by creating a pro bono program
portal, where organizations can submit requests for help, and
employees can find opportunities that match their passions
and interests. Taproot Foundation recently partnered with Blue
Cross and Blue Shield Louisiana to build the state’s first
dedicated platform for virtual pro bono volunteering. The free
platform allows nonprofits in the area to post requests for help
with finance, graphic design, IT and more. Once requests are
submitted, individuals can search for projects that align with
their skills and interests.
The Future Of Volunteering
It’s going to take a community to restore community. The
technology community has a unique opportunity to help build
resilience in a valuable sector. As fundraising, program and
volunteer management for nonprofits have gone virtual with
social distancing, offering professional support pro bono
provides an important solution. With high engagement and
high impact, pro bono volunteerism enables the digital
transformation necessary to recover from the pandemic and
build resilience for the future.
Forbes Technology Council is an invitation-only community for
world-class CIOs, CTOs and technology executives. Do I

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