How Skilled Volunteering is Helping Nonprofits Increase Their Impact

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How Skilled Volunteering is Helping Nonprofits Increase Their Impact

By Steve Cutler, Vice Chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co.
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Steve Cutler explains how @jpmorgan Service Corps lends their skills to help create economic opportunity in cities

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Thursday, November 3, 2016 - 2:00pm


My own personal connection to our employee volunteer efforts goes back to the start of my legal career.  I learned then that pro bono work (that is, work undertaken by lawyers for “the public good” without charge) was part of what it meant to be a lawyer; it was an obligation that came with membership in the legal profession – and was one I took seriously. 

Right out of law school, I spent a year at a public interest law firm doing environmental work and represented African-American and Hispanic oilfield workers in a class action discrimination case.  And throughout my 30 years as a lawyer – in private practice, the United States government and for nine years as the General Counsel of JPMorgan Chase & Co. – I’ve always believed that giving back was a part of every lawyer’s responsibility.  

So I take great personal as well as professional pride in the commitment of JPMorgan Chase to enrich the communities in which we live and work.  I am proud to be part of a company in which public service has been and continues to be such an important part of who we are. The employee engagement and volunteer (EEV) programs here at JPMorgan Chase are evidence of our commitment to giving back.  In 2015 alone, more than 47,000 of our employees volunteered 330,000-plus hours to support over 2,300 service projects worldwide.

These programs have added immeasurable impact to the $200 million in grants we contribute to worthy causes around the world through the JPMorgan Chase Foundation every year.

Most recently, we launched a joint initiative with the Red Cross called the Missing Maps program in which our employees help to create digital maps for the world’s poorest communities that are vulnerable to natural disasters.  The maps allow government and humanitarian organizations to help communities prepare, build resiliency and deploy relief in case a disaster strikes. We are immensely honored to have received the Corporate Leadership Award from the American Red Cross for our efforts in this area.

Another linchpin of our employee engagement program is the JPMorgan Chase Service Corps, which leverages employees’ skills and insights to help our nonprofit partners expand their impact in their communities.  In the two years that the Service Corps has been in operation, it has grown from 32 employees working with 12 nonprofits to 64 employees working with 16 nonprofits.  So far, employees have deployed to work with our nonprofit partners in Mumbai, Detroit, Johannesburg and New Orleans.  Next year, 96 employees will support 24 nonprofits. 

Each Service Corps “cohort” typically consists of 16 employees from different lines of business, functions and geographies.  (This past year, our volunteers represented 12 countries.)  They’re divided into four teams of four, with each team assigned to work on a project to bolster the operational capacity of a nonprofit. Those projects have ranged from creating management dashboards to marketing campaigns.  Our employees spend three intense weeks – away from their families and home offices ­– to bring their projects to fruition.  As is the case with pro bono legal work, our volunteers are really putting their professional skills to work in order to help those in need.

Thus, the Service Corps creates a three-fold benefit.

  • strengthens our nonprofit partners, helping them build their internal capacity;
  • builds employees’ networks within the firm and provides a unique learning opportunity to collaborate in a new environment; and
  • develops the leadership skills and cultural competency of the firm’s top talent.

As one volunteer noted to me, “The program also helped me to better listen and understand diverse viewpoints and perspectives within a team.”  Service Corps participants have been able to spread their wings in ways they might not have in their day jobs. They’re gratified by the contributions they make, as well as by their own ability to accomplish difficult tasks in a limited timeframe.  

When I graduated from law school 30 years ago and was considering law firms, some of the questions I asked were: “Does this firm believe that pro bono and community service are important?  What’s the evidence of that?  Is it part of the fabric of the place?” I hope that when people think about whether they want to work at JPMorgan Chase they look at programs such as Missing Maps and the Service Corps as reflections of our culture and the kind of company that we are.  The great aspect of Service Corps in particular is that we are giving back using the very skills sets that we hope make us excel at our day jobs.

Learn more about our Service Corps program and how we share our talent.

Stephen Cutler is Vice Chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co.  From 2007 through 2015, he was the company's General Counsel.