What’s your superpower? When CSR and volunteerism go hand in hand, nonprofits win big

This article was written by Sima Parekh, Executive Director at 48in48.org

Cleaning up a park, stuffing a truck with donations, framing a wall for a build project. These are some of the visuals that come to mind when we think of volunteerism. When we talk about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), thoughts may turn to company-wide initiatives like sustainability practices or paid time off to volunteer in the community. Both kinds of efforts make a positive impact and both help organizations or causes that need support.

Now, imagine the potential if they were connected.

Bridging the gap between CSR and volunteerism means taking the charity-based goals of a company, putting a structure in place to target a specific outcome aligned with those goals, and mobilizing the talents within the company to drive a tangible effort to achieve them. Whether planned internally or in partnership with a customizable program, synchronized CSR-volunteerism initiatives provide multiple benefits to both the sponsor and the recipient.

Beyond today and tomorrow

A park cleanup or a food drive will no doubt do a lot of good for a community. It can also boost company morale as coworkers break a sweat together, knowing they are giving back. But what about afterward? Many times the echoes of that day simply fade until the next year, or the next time the CSR team has time to take on the logistics of another event.

With skills-based volunteerism, employees offer resources that keep giving well beyond the present and into the future: knowledge and talent. Longevity is the true value here; lasting, tangible results that come from opportunities where nonprofit groups can learn from those with business know-how. Maybe it’s learning how to streamline fundraising programs or gaining valuable insights into donor analytics. It could be a faster, more efficient technology infrastructure or a more donor-friendly website. These are invaluable partnerships put in place by those with the expertise, shared with those who will manage and reap the benefits going forward.

Skills are superpowers

Just as the global pandemic hit businesses hard, it dealt a tremendous blow to nonprofits as well. Many organizations that were already operating on tight budgets with limited resources found themselves facing an uncertain future as both were cut further. In a movie storyline, this is when the superhero would fly in and save the day.

Skilled workers are the superheroes nonprofits are calling for; the people who can set them up to not only survive hard times but to thrive going forward. Often, those in a corporate setting may not even realize how invaluable their expertise could be to a charity organization; how tasks they handle every day without a second thought could be those holding up a nonprofit’s path to success. When a CSR team enlists the help of their skilled staff, resources can meet the need in a truly impactful way.

Even better? Volunteers may discover superpowers they didn’t even know they had. An office administrator’s organizational skills might make them a fantastic project manager. A designer’s knack for spatial relationships may lend itself to creating a more efficient office design. Stretching to new areas can also bring out leadership qualities or highlight potential mentors on a staff. Bringing established skills to the table can unearth new ones along the way.

Virtual = Global

For non-profits, what started out as a devastating loss in terms of canceled galas, concerts and other key fundraisers in 2020, has morphed into an opportunity to reach donors and contributors well beyond their area of influence. By moving giving events online, or to a hybrid model, every affair went global by default. In terms of CSR and volunteerism, this means companies with teams ready to volunteer are no longer limited geographically; any virtual initiative is a possible match. For global companies the potential is even greater; imagine the impact of a worldwide brand challenging their offices to see which can make the biggest impact for a chosen cause.

In the wake of 2020, corporate CSR teams are energized to double down on making a difference at a time when it’s needed more than ever. Nonprofits are looking to restrengthen for recovery and success going forward. By organizing specific skills-based volunteer programs, both can win.

With a background in technology program management and strategy, Sima Parekh supports organizations through transformation, execution, and growth. She is the Director of Operations Strategy and Programs at IHG Hotels and Resorts and also serves as the Executive Director at 48in48.

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