Cross-Company Collaboration: Creating Regional Impact through Skills-Based Volunteering

As an organization focused on connecting talented business professionals with nonprofit organizations to build capacity for the social sector, Common Impact is excited to see an increased appetite for pro bono service across companies of all shapes and sizes. Our experience tells us that when done right, skills-based programs hold tremendous potential for corporate volunteers and the nonprofits they support. While it is great to see so many companies bought into the concept, we know from our nearly twenty years of practice that for programs to be most effective, they need to facilitate meaningful cross-sector partnerships and generate transformational community impact.

This is a concept we call “The Knitting Factor”, coined in our Stanford Social Innovation Review article, “The Promise of Skills-Based Volunteering”. The Knitting Factor brings together three key conditions that enable skills-based engagements between the private and nonprofit sectors to create strengthened, sustainable solutions that don’t come undone when partners part ways.

  • A Panoramic Perspective:  Taking a bird’s eye view when crafting partnerships, by looking at people and organizations beyond their titles and sectors and allowing value to transcend profit
  • Skill Sharing: A focus on two-way talent exchange, where pro bono professionals and their companies are learning as much from the nonprofits they work with as those nonprofits learn from them
  • Sticky Relationships: A commitment to building long-lasting partnerships that drive nonprofit missions and business engagement forward

An example of a program that embodies all three of these characteristics, is Skills for Cities, one of Common Impact’s newest models for community engagement in partnership with IMPACT 2030 and SVP Boston. Skills for Cities is a citywide, cross-company day of service event that activates regional skills-based volunteers across industries and invites participation from smaller organizations without traditional pro bono programs. The first of these events will be launching in Boston, MA this September and will bring together community-minded professionals and impactful local nonprofits to tackle some of the city’s most pressing social issues.

Here’s a snapshot of how Skills for Cities Boston hits all three characteristics of 
The Knitting Factor:

  • A Panoramic Perspective:  Skills for Cities Boston brings together leaders from across industries and backgrounds to direct their talents and expertise towards a targeted and shared purpose – making an impact in the communities in which they live and work. The idea for Skills for Cities initially started in collaboration between senior leaders in the public and private sector, leveraging the cross-sector expertise of Common Impact, SVP Boston and Berkshire Bank’s Gary Levante, who runs the firm’s Corporate Social Responsibility efforts. Gary played an integral role in getting this program off the ground by leveraging Berkshire Bank’s strong footprint within the Boston community, as well as his regional involvement with IMPACT 2030, a collaborative initiative itself that engages corporate, social and academic leadership to develop employee volunteer programs that advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Skill Sharing:  By bringing together corporate and nonprofit professionals who otherwise may not have crossed paths, Skills for Cities Boston provides a unique opportunity for individuals from all sectors and leadership levels to learn from one another and develop new skills that they’ll bring back to their organizations.
  • Sticky Relationships:  Skills for Cities Boston combines the expertise of three socially conscious organizations, Common Impact, SVP Boston and IMPACT 2030 to launch the first-of-its kind skills-based day of service. This event is designed to focus on the needs of the greater Boston community and deliver on the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Our hope is that these partnerships will ultimately sustain far past the initial day of service and continue to make a deep impact in the local community for years to come.

The Common Impact team is looking forward to launching this new model and giving back to the community in which we were founded almost twenty years ago. Follow us on our blog for event updates and connect with us on Twitter to get involved in the conversation!

About Danielle Holly

Danielle Holly is CEO of Common Impact, an organization that designs programs that direct a company’s most strategic philanthropic asset – their people – to the seemingly intractable social challenges they’re best positioned to address. Danielle has supported hundreds of nonprofit organizations on positioning and branding strategies to more effectively scale their models of social impact.  In addition, Danielle has helped numerous corporations navigate the new era in corporate social responsibility and skills-based volunteering, including global powerhouses JPMorgan Chase, Charles Schwab, Marriott International, and Fidelity Investments. She is a contributing writer for Nonprofit Quarterly on strategic corporate engagement.  She is a member of the NationSwell Council, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network and Net Impact NYC. You can reach her via email at dholly@commonimpact.org or follow her on Twitter @dholly8.