Mobilizing Talent: Outerwall Joins the Pro Bono and Skills-Based Movement

By Lily Osborne, Senior Community Relations Specialist, Corporate Social Responsibility
Jun 16, 2014 5:45 PM ET

I became fascinated and deeply inspired by the idea of business professionals volunteering their skills to support nonprofits while working at Taproot Foundation several years ago as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I loved contributing to cross-sector collaboration, and the opportunity to bring nonprofits highly skilled talent for free.

How valuable is it for a nonprofit to have a volunteer who can configure a donor database, perform a SWOT analysis or develop a marketing plan pro bono? According to a report from True Impact, the value of skilled volunteer support for general operations, technology and professional services can be 500% greater than the value of traditional volunteering. In addition, professionals from both sectors gain an opportunity to expand their networks, develop soft-skills, and for nonprofits, potentially new board members or donors.

The opportunity to connect Outerwall employees to high impact volunteer opportunities was a significant reason why I was excited to join the Outerwall Corporate Responsibility team. It’s been inspiring to discover how Outerwall employees have been volunteering their skills, and to see our programing evolve so that we are not only supporting nonprofits with our hands, but talent as well.

The pro bono trend

Over the last ten years, thanks in large part to organizations like Taproot Foundation, Catchafire and A Billion + Change, more and more companies are providing pro bono and skills-based support to nonprofits.

In June of 2013, more than 500 companies pledged over $2 billion in pro bono service through A Billion + Change. This enthusiastic support makes sense considering the mutual benefits for companies and nonprofits. Research shows that skills-based and pro bono service can result in (Source: A Billion + Change):

  • Higher morale: At HP, 59% of skills-based volunteers reported higher employee morale than non-volunteers and 13% higher employee morale than “extra-hands” volunteers.
  • Stronger relationships: 75% of A Billion + Change pledge companies have built stronger relationships with community, business and legislative leaders.
  • Cultivate business and leadership skills: 91% of Fortune 500 human resources managers said volunteering knowledge and expertise to a nonprofit can be an effective way to cultivate business and leadership skills.
  • Fill in needed gaps: 92% of nonprofits say they don’t get enough pro bono support

Outerwall’s pro bono and skills-based initiatives

Last year, Outerwall pledged through A Billion + Change to support Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) and that commitment has driven us to look for more and more opportunities. As our team searched, we were thrilled to discover that many colleagues were already engaged in skills-based or pro bono work and we’ve been collaborating with our Better Everyday and Community Connection grantees to develop more opportunities in 2014. We’re also connecting with our leaders to identify specific talents and internal strengths we can leverage. Together we’re looking to make a bigger impact using the expertise of our team.

So far in 2014, a number of volunteer projects have taken place across the spectrum of skills-based and pro bono. Here’s some of the work our employees have been involved with:

Interview practice and career consulting for veterans with Reboot Workshop

We teamed up with OneOC, AmeriCorps (Veteran Leader Corps) and Reboot Workshop to have our senior leaders work with veterans for a series of practice job interviews. Reboot’s mission is to help veterans successfully transition to civilian life and secure meaningful employment. Our leaders provided advice on interviewing and working in the corporate world and learned from the individual veterans they met about their work experience and transition.

I’ve participated in a number of volunteer programs over the years, but engaging with the men and women veterans of Reboot where I was able to apply my professional experience to assist them with interviewing techniques for the next chapter of their careers was one of the most rewarding.” – Jim Gaherity, president of Coinstar

Mentorship and business planning with Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) Chicago

During the 2013-2014 school year, Redbox employees mentored high school students enrolled in NFTE’s entrepreneurship education program. Through NFTE, students from low-income communities learn math and literacy skills in the context of building a business plan.

At the end of the course, students have a chance to compete for seed capital through a series of business plan competitions. Redbox team members spent one-on-one time with students providing consultation on the student’s business ideas, as well as teaching aspects of Redbox’s business model.

“Having the opportunity to work with a NFTE student was a very rewarding experience for me. I had the pleasure of teaming up with a bright young lady to talk about her business idea and how she was going to develop and execute her business plan. She was extremely engaged and asked a lot of questions that got me to think a little differently.” – Jolene Clark, manager of sales, Outerwall

IT training with Neighborhood House, Digital Connectors program

Neighborhood House is one of our Community Connection grantees, and Michael Glaros and Andy Gardiner from our Information Security team currently participates in their Digital Connectors program, which was designed by Comcast.

After completing a training program early this year, Andy and Michael have been developing lesson plans and teaching technology skills to young adults, ages 14 to 21, from primarily diverse, low-income backgrounds. The program also teaches students to apply what they have learned in order to benefit the greater community.

”I was humbled to put my professional and technical skills to use serving Neighborhood House's Digital Connectors program as a volunteer instructor.  It was a privilege showing the youth of Seattle, many of whom came from all over the world, that with a blend of inspiration and direction they, like emerging countries, can use the skills demonstrated in class to fast track themselves out of a life of poverty and underemployment.” – Michael Glaros, director of information security, Outerwall

Ways to get involved

Whether you’re an individual looking to contribute your professional skills or a business interested in starting a skills-based volunteer program, there are a number of great resources to help get you started.

  • Individuals: Take a look at LinkedIn’s Volunteer Marketplace, which features pro bono opportunities identified by organizations like Catchafire, Taproot Foundation, BoardSource and VolunteerMatch in addition to many distinct nonprofit organizations.
  • Companies: A Billion + Change has become a great central resource for case studies, toolkits and research for businesses who want to learn how to do pro bono. They offer in-depth trainings or you can connect with a Pro Bono Champion who has taken their training (disclosure: I’m one of them) for support.

At Outerwall we recognize the benefits of corporate volunteer programs and, as shared in Outerwall’s CSR report, we’re working to increase employee volunteer participation to 33% by 2015. We know engaging employees in skills-based and pro bono service is an important factor in reaching that goal, and I am excited to see how this work will deliver more value to our communities and nonprofit partners.