As the world faces a convergence of social, environmental, and economic issues, it may sometimes seem like the world of non-profits aren’t equipped to challenge them all. But while the difficulty of the issues facing us can’t be underestimated, charitable organizations are making moves to adjust their policies and taking creative new opportunities to better respond to the dynamic complications of a modern world. One of the biggest steps that non-profits can take is by making use of skill-based volunteering. By drawing on the proficiency of specialists in the private sector, these groups can better tackle the problems on the horizon. It’s certainly not a new concept. Many attorneys have long offered pro bono services in furtherance of social justice, but many companies are starting to see the benefit that comes from lending their resources to important social issues, and this move towards social accountability on the part of large businesses could revolutionize how we look at non-profit organizations.
One of the most prominent organizations organizing non-profits and businesses is a Billion Plus Change. Over just a few years, they’ve managed to mobilize 5000 different companies in providing pro bono services, resulting in substantive action totaling over five billion dollars. Particularly refreshing is the scope of industries that they’ve managed to gather under their tent. Their network includes traditional non-profits along with companies from over a dozen industries. From hospitality to manufacturing to retail, a Billion Plus Change’s partners can provide the sort of specialized services that underfunded charitable organizations might not otherwise have access to and mobilizes them for free.
But organizations like a Billion Plus Change can’t solve the problem alone, and properly coordinating volunteers can sometimes be difficult. A strong infrastructure can make all the differences in the world, but there are fortunately a number of resources available for those trying to launch a skill-based volunteer program. The Organizational Readiness Assessment is the gold standard for organizations looking to launch an initiative, but that alone isn’t enough. Proper planning is a necessity, and that means putting together a blueprint that takes place in stages and applies the care of a traditional business proposal. And while volunteer-based organization is all about getting skilled individuals in the places where they can do the most good, a proper managerial structure is a practical necessity.
While the demands needed to put a skill-based program may seem daunting, it could represent a bold new future for how non-profits are run. Charitable giving like that committed to by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates can go a long way, but practical knowledge can sometimes be worth more than wealth alone.