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by Rachel Hutchisson, Business Doing Good & Blackbaud, Inc.

Inspired yet?  Sure hope so.

Over the past few months, I have been highlighting the amazing stories of small businesses that haven’t let their size get in the way of doing big things.  These firms were all featured in an eBook I produced with A Billion+Change and Riggs Partners for #GivingTuesday last fall.  But the case studies were all so great that I couldn’t just leave them at that.  I HAD to share them again.

So, it’s my hope that you’re now thoroughly inspired and all those concerns you had about how difficult or insurmountable it would be to start a skills-based volunteerism program have been swept to the side.  You’re now ready to begin.  In that spirit, I’m diving right into the HOW.  Here are the first three steps in a seven-step journey:

Step 1 – Develop your plan – Before you begin, take a moment to think through all the ways your business gives back today.  Document what you do so you have a clear understanding of the foundation from which you are beginning.  This document is the beginning of your formal giving strategy.  As a part of this step, define your business, employee and social goals for skills-based volunteerism so you can align what you do with your goals.  Make sure you include:

  • Donations you make (what you give to today and why, making sure you look at the marketing budget to include donations that might be disguised as sponsorships)
  • Volunteer projects
  • In-kind products or services you give to nonprofits
  • Leadership positions members of the firm hold in the community (nonprofit boards, committees, etc.)

Step 2 – Engage your people – Share your interest in adding a skills-based volunteerism program with your team.  See who gets really jazzed by the idea, and ask them to join a committee that will help develop a pilot.  The committee can take on a variety of tasks including:

  1. Learning more about skills-based volunteerism themselves so they can become internal champions
  2. Hosting educational sessions for other team members to get them excited about serving
  3. Surveying all employees about their interest in skills-based volunteerism and, in particular, the kinds of skills they would like to offer
  4. Coming up with a name for the volunteerism team to use externally when your people are out in the community

Step 3 – Identify partners – With steps 1 and 2 complete, you’ll have the information you need to figure out where to begin serving.  Look at the nonprofits where you have made donations in the past or where your team has done traditional volunteerism.  Work with the employee committee to identify those partners who are easy to work with and might have an interest in trying out skills-based volunteerism with your employees.  Having good partners matters because the nonprofits need to do brainstorming of their own about their needs and must be open to working with you.  They might need to do some planning of their own, which you can encourage, to match the skills your people can offer with good opportunities to serve.

And there you have it – you’re already three of the seven steps down the road toward your very own skills-based volunteerism project.  Tune in next time for the final four steps!

Rachel Hutchisson (@RachelHutchssn) is VP, Corporate Citizenship & Philanthropy at Blackbaud, Inc., a 2,700-person technology company that works exclusively with nonprofit organizations. She built the company’s “give back” function from the ground up, relying on expertise she gained in over two decades of working at the intersection of the business world and the nonprofit sector. Rachel is a member of the #GivingTuesday core advisory team, leads her company’s involvement in the Billion+Change pro-bono initiative, and serves on the boards of the Association of Fundraising Professionals International, The Giving Institute, and the Coastal Community Foundation. She is also a member of the core team that launched TEDxCharleston in 2013. She is a graduate of Dickinson College and received a master’s degree from the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

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