Pro Bono: Doing Good on Company Time

Organizations have long encouraged their employees to participate in food drives and home-building activities. But there’s growing interest among corporations for a new type of volunteerism that involves workers donating their professional expertise while on the company dime. It’s called pro bono service, and it differs from traditional volunteering, which is usually performing tasks for which there would not be a charge anyway.

What’s in it for the companies? For one, pro bono initiatives help attract and retain employees looking for a way to add meaning to their lives and careers. This is especially true of millennials, who are particularly interested in benefitting causes with their skills or expertise. Companies may also deduct certain expenses associated with their employees’ pro bono efforts, although the time itself is not deductible. Large organizations can likewise funnel their workers toward causes they support. Prudential Financial, for example, allows teams of employees to work on 10-week consulting projects for nonprofits near its New Jersey headquarters. Wells Fargo workers may choose to help impoverished communities obtain microfinancing.

According to CECP, a consulting firm that helps organizations do good, more and more companies are doing just that. CECP’s data shows that last year, organizations’ employees logged more than a million hours of pro bono work, up from less than half a million hours in 2013. Carmen Perez, CECP’s director of data insights, explains that people are no longer satisfied by painting a fence. “They want to use their skills […] to solve a societal challenge,” she says.

Discussion

  1. What additional motivations might a large organization have for allowing its employees to perform pro bono work?
  2. Other than enjoying the satisfaction that comes from doing good, how else might a volunteer be positively affected by performing pro bono rather than traditional volunteer work?
  3. Why would smaller businesses with fewer resources also engage in pro bono activities?

From the Wall Street Journal

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