Deloitte: Leveraging Professional Skills to Help Nonprofits Solve Complex Challenges

How this organization’s employee-driven pro bono program promotes talent development and inclusive leadership.
Sep 22, 2020 11:10 AM ET

It’s powerful to see grassroots initiatives out in our communities. They bubble up organically, fueled by passionate, committed people intent on making society a better place for all. But it’s not all that common to see organic initiatives blossom like this in the corporate world. That’s why we are beyond inspired when we see an initiative like Deloitte’s stepup program come along—built from the ground up by a handful of professionals committed to their community.

From the Ground Up

Back in 2014 a group of Deloitte professionals reflected on the role pro bono service and skills-based volunteerism had played in their personal and professional lives. The experiences gave them a sense of purpose, connected them with a community of colleagues, strengthened their client service skills, and exposed them to different ways of thinking that made them more empathetic and inclusive leaders. They wondered, “How can we help every professional at Deloitte have access to these types of experiences?”

“The team came to me because they wanted to do more than give money to a cause or sit on a nonprofit board,” said Carl Engle, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, that has been a sponsor of stepup since its inception. “They wanted to bring the skills and talents they used every day with their clients to help nonprofits in the community solve pressing challenges and ultimately, drive greater social impact.”

Several conversations later, that group of Los Angeles professionals founded the very first chapter of stepup, a skills-based volunteerism program at Deloitte designed to create a win-win-win scenario: program participants could build their skills and give back to their communities; local nonprofits would benefit from support around strategic business issues; and Deloitte would champion social good while engaging and empowering their professionals to learn and grow. “We wanted any professional—no matter their skillset, career level, or geographic location—to have the opportunity to participate,” said Robert Huekler, a chapter co-founder of stepup and today’s national program advisor. “If someone had an interest in serving their community, we wanted to offer them possibilities—whether that be working directly with nonprofits, developing training or employee engagement resources for Deloitte teams, or serving on the local chapter leadership board to support program operations.” After the Los Angeles chapter was up and running, the team developed an out-of-the-box toolkit that made it easy for new groups in different offices across the US to get off the ground. With time, this growth caught the attention of Deloitte leaders.

Driving community-powered social impact

Although chapter operations and growth continued to be professional-driven, they began collaborating very early on with Deloitte’s Talent and Corporate Citizenship teams. Together, they were able to garner senior leadership support, define policies and procedures to mitigate risk and streamline processes, establish a strong central support network, and encourage participation in the new program. To this day, local chapters still own the end-to-end process of sourcing, scoping, and delivering projects with nonprofits in their communities—much  like the first group in Los Angeles. But now, with chapters around the US and in Deloitte member firms around the world, professionals  can tap into a larger network to learn and help problem solve together. All while furthering Deloitte’s WorldClass ambition to impact 50 million futures by helping to build bridges between education, skills training, and employment.

Stepup continues to grow in scale in its sixth year, with 18 active chapters and an impressive portfolio of projects under its belt.  In the last two years alone, over 1,200 stepup participants delivered nearly 200 projects to nonprofits in the community. 

Inclusion at its Core

Yet another clear benefit came to surface through the organic growth of stepup. While the diversity of the program meant many people, places, and cultures were represented, the inclusivity of the work being done in the community—and how it was being done—truly shone through. “Enabling our people to use their skills through pro bono for the greater good of our communities delivers real business benefits to  Deloitte,” explains Kwasi Mitchell, Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Diversity & Inclusion Officer and National Pro Bono Leader.“ And now,” adds Mitchell, “we’re excited to see that pro bono service is helping us develop leaders that are inclusive and lead by example.”

Professionals enter stepup from all levels within the organization and are actively engaged in managing their chapter’s projects, often shoulder-to-shoulder alongside leadership. “Stepup founders and leaders really believed in this program being led by junior professionals, and that has made stepup attractive to innovative thinkers and change agents of all levels and disciplines from all across the organization,” explained Isabel Chirase, senior consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and the national lead for the stepup US Program Board. “Working with leaders from Deloitte and from my nonprofit clients has helped me accelerate my career by sharpening my leadership skills and approach to problem-solving. I’ve learned how important it is to seek a diversity of perspectives and how much more impact we can make when we bring together skillsets from across the organization. That really seems to drive the inclusive nature of the program and its success as a vehicle for rapidly cultivating leadership acumen.”

Helping to create a future of opportunity

Embedding inclusion strategies into their pro bono programming puts Deloitte on the cutting edge of this nascent effort. Deloitte’s Chief Inclusion Officer Terri Cooper notes, “Now, more than ever, companies need to commit and make inclusion a reality. One of the most powerful ways that we can actually change behaviors and inspire empathy is through experiences like pro bono. We’re beyond excited to share what we’re learning at Deloitte and collaborate with other organizations in leveraging pro bono to develop more inclusive leaders and ultimately, help create a more inclusive society for all.”

About Deloitte

Deloitte refers to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited, a UK private company limited by guarantee (“DTTL”), its network of member firms, and their related entities. DTTL and each of its member firms are legally separate and independent entities. DTTL (also referred to as “Deloitte Global”) does not provide services to clients. In the United States, Deloitte refers to one or more of the US member firms of DTTL, their related entities that operate using the “Deloitte” name in the United States and their respective affiliates. Certain services may not be available to attest clients under the rules and regulations of public accounting. Please see to learn more about our global network of member firms.