Shaping the Future of Skills-Based Volunteerism

Reflections from Common Impact’s staff retreat
Jun 20, 2018 10:15 AM ET

Last week, the Common Impact team gathered in our Brooklyn offices to connect as colleagues and plan for the work ahead of us. As a growing and geographically dispersed organization, it was the first time many of us had a chance to engage face-to-face in important conversations on the future of pro bono work, and it also provided an opportunity for the team to re-connect with our mission and each other. 

CSR trends point to the rise of skills-based volunteerism with more than 50% of companies developing programs to support community philanthropy, employee engagement and leadership development goals among others. Given this increased demand, Common Impact is in the fortunate position of having an exciting challenge to help solve: how can we best innovate our program models and scale our organization’s capacity to support the rise of skills-based volunteerism.

The next phase of our work at Common Impact will focus on how we can put the Knitting Factor into practice to achieve our vision of a society in which all individuals and businesses invest their unique talents towards a shared purpose of strengthening the local communities in which we live and work. As participation in skills-based volunteerism increases, so too does our opportunity to move the sector from transactional to transformational change. We see this happening in three key ways and are excited to share our vision for the next-generation of skills-based volunteering as well as our staff reflections and enthusiasm for the future of this work.

  • Institutional Partnerships – To ensure the sticky relationships required by the Knitting Factor, Common Impact will build sustainable partnerships between companies and nonprofits that transcend individual volunteers to deliver on long-term business, social and environmental objectives.

“As the CSR space continues to evolve, I’ve seen Common Impact’s corporate clients thinking more strategically and holistically about the impact they’re able to have – not just on individual nonprofits but on the core challenges facing our communities today. I’m excited to work alongside these leaders to form cross-institution coalitions that build community resiliency and innovate on traditional applications of skills-based volunteering,” says Molly Weinstein, Consultant.

  • Skill Building – Similar to the skills-sharing concept introduced by the Knitting Factor, the next phase of pro bono volunteerism will move beyond simply access to necessary skills to instead focus on reciprocal skill building and knowledge transfer between corporate and nonprofit team members. Common Impact is excited to continue leading this work.

“One of the exciting parts of my role is being able to work at the intersection of the nonprofit and for-profit sectors and to break down the power dynamics that exist. I love hearing about the professional development benefits that the employee volunteers get out of the projects and how much they learn from the professionals in the nonprofit sector,” says Jackie Hodgson, Director of Consulting.

  • Pivotal Projects – Common Impact is developing new models for volunteerism that will help amplify the impact of our work on the nonprofit sector.  These strategic volunteer programs will drive innovative new approaches to developing, evolving and scaling social impact models to provide enduring solutions to the most persistent community problems.

“I am excited to see how we can infuse our high-quality foundational work to drive expansion for pivotal projects, giving Common Impact and our partners the opportunity to create greater change in our communities,” says Season Eckardt, Senior Consultant.

Some early examples of this work include citywide, cross-company days of service to help activate skills-based volunteerism at a regional level and introduce the concept to more organizations and participants. The first of these citywide models will launch in Boston, MA this September. Other pivotal projects on our horizon include developing a volunteer engagement model to support community resiliency in the face of increasing natural and man-made disasters, and expanding the reach of skills-based volunteerism by developing new tools, communication vehicles and research to support the field.

"This year our staff retreat was a critical reminder that what drives this transformative and sometimes-messy work forward is the spirit and energy that we bring to it every day. Common Impact is incredibly lucky to have the team, board and partners that are ready to roll up their sleeves for this next generation of pro bono service," says Danielle Holly, CEO.

Our team is enthusiastic and energized to lead the way on these new initiatives. We invite you to share your perspectives on where the field of skills-based volunteerism is headed and what you see as the biggest challenges or opportunities. We also look forward to sharing more updates on our new programs as they launch at