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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

Report: Pro Bono Now Prevalent in All Areas of Corporate Philanthropy

A forthcoming study from the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP) finds that pro bono service has experienced an explosion of growth that is sweeping across Corporate America.  As the fastest growing employee engagement program, pro bono service is now represented across every industry for the first time in the study of pro bono service.  Half of all surveyed companies now offer pro bono service as an element of their volunteer program.  That’s up from 34% of all surveyed companies just a few years ago, when pro bono was a benefit offered mostly by service companies.

The report, Giving in Numbers: 2014 Edition, illustrates what a popular and important feature pro bono service has become to companies and nonprofits alike.  In 2013, the median value of pro bono across all industries was $300,000, comprising a key reason why corporate giving increased for 64% of companies since the end of the Great Recession (although growth in giving has slowed overall in recent years, which I have previously addressed).  Among companies reporting pro bono service dollar values in 2013, 67% have increased cash contributions since the end of the Great Recession.

CECP identified three main themes around the popularity of pro bono service:

  • Pro bono connects the core competencies of businesses with the needs of the nonprofit.  Companies and employees are able to provide their unique service or skills to the community.  

  • Companies see pro bono as a way to invest in the talent in their companies and to provide leadership development.

  • Pro bono provides a way to get internal buy-in towards investing in communities - specifically with the leaders of the company.  This can build towards a company-wide ethic of skills-based volunteering.

The CECP report found that increased giving of all kinds lead to greater company investments in communities, which in turn leads to better business performance.  Companies which increased giving by 10% since 2010 also increased median revenues by 11% between 2011 and 2013, while revenues fell for all other companies. (Article continues after infographic.)

CECP infographic -win_win.jpg

Other findings of the report are equally encouraging about the ways in which Corporate America is enabling employees to have a bigger stake in their social mission.  Among companies offering year-round matching gifts since 2010, median contributions increased by 8%.  A majority of companies strategically targeted matching gifts to predetermined cause areas or to specific nonprofit partners.

Company-Wide Days of Service are the most successful volunteer programs for domestic employees, followed by Dollars for Doers and Paid-Time Release programs.  For international employees, Flexible Scheduling programs were the most successful.

According to corporate giving professionals attending the CECP Summit in May 2014, Volunteer Time Off is the most effective socially motivated tactic for increasing employee satisfaction with their company. Perhaps that’s why the median number of hours volunteered on company time increased by 37% from 2010 to 2013.

“CEOs at CECP’s 2014 CEO event, the Board of Boards, identified employees as the most

important stakeholder influencing decisions to expand community investments,” notes the CECP study’s author, Michael Stroik.  “In turn, companies are expanding their socially motivated employee engagement opportunities to offer new ways for employees to participate in company efforts.”

The data shows that pro bono service is one company effort that employees, company leaders and nonprofits all find beneficial.  CECP is a founding supporter of Pro Bono Week, a global celebration of the pro bono ethic across all professions that use their talents to make a difference. With Pro Bono Week just around the corner, the Giving in Numbers’ findings about the increase in pro bono service validate the extra focus on this growing form of giving back.

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