January 2021: Skills-based and pro bono volunteering in 2021

Melinda Bostwick (former Vice President of Association of Corporate Citizenship Professionals) kicked-off the discussion with an overview of the skills-based and pro bono volunteering space. Melinda highlighted JetBlue’s approach to skills-based volunteering throughout the pandemic in conversation with Tamara Young, JetBlue’s General Manager of Corporate Communications.

• Pivoting to virtual and focusing primarily on skills-based volunteering has been, and continues to be very difficult. Company culture and employee thinking is still in the ‘hands-on’ mindset which is challenging to reverse. This is especially the case for companies with operations-based frontline employees who have continued to work in person throughout the pandemic. Due primarily to COVID-19, corporate volunteer hours fell by ~58% versus the same period of the previous year
• U.S. volunteering as a whole, which is represented by mostly hands-on activities, has an estimated value of $25/per volunteer hour. Taproot estimates the average value of pro bono or skilled volunteering to be $195/hr
• Approx. 50% of online volunteer assignment don’t require technology-specific skill sets
• Many have had experiences in which new endeavors and virtual programming did not fully pan out or succeed due to immense zoom fatigue/lack of virtual engagement, and re-work is needed
• Pro bono demand has been met with a strong response by many of our member companies, with much more in the hopper and still needed by those recipient orgs
• Team building is a key positive impact from pro bono and skills-based volunteering work
• Volunteering activities with a negative sustainability impact were surprisingly a hot topic – shipping of materials or other items were not always received well by employees volunteering
• 2021 continues to be a transitional year of uncertainty with no clear opportunity to welcome back in-person events on a large corporate scale. Some member companies have seen localized in-person events on a case-by-case basis (JetBlue has not hosted any large-scale corporate in-person volunteer events in the pandemic but permits local CSR liaisons/Foundation Ambassadors to coordinate in-person activity when local guidelines permit and social-distancing/safety measures can be implemented)
• In breakout sessions members spoke of challenges they faced and how they pivoted traditional programs due to the pandemic (for ex., prior to pandemic Pfizer engaged employees in 3-6 month global skills-based placements to partner with organizations abroad, programs such as this had been paused at onset of pandemic)
• Member companies are still looking for partners to work with on building out skills-based programs and are working to identify new nonprofit partner relationships
o Member companies recommended the following partners for virtual engagement:
o City Tutors (1×1 mentoring for college students at CUNY)
o SuitUp (one-time virtual business competitions that take place over the course of a week, approx. 4 hour commitment from volunteers)
o Taproot Foundation, Common Impact, and Pyxera Global can build and design/implement skills-based volunteering programs
o Missing Maps (trains employees to map unmapped areas of the globe to aid in disaster and humanitarian relief)
o Catch a Fire (Skills-based volunteering matching network)
o WeHero has skills-based and also non-skill-based volunteering (paint & sip BLM learning opportunity)