Capital One’s Carolyn Berkowitz on the 2013 Pro Bono Summit and the Company’s Community Impact

Carolyn Berkowitz, Managing VP, Community Affairs, Capital One

As part of National Volunteer Week, the 2013 Pro Bono Summit will be taking place Monday, April 22, 2013. In partnership with A Billion+Change, a national campaign to mobilize billions of dollars in corporate pro bono community service, the summit will feature companies who will share their best practices, innovations and new trends in skills-based volunteering.

One of those companies participating is Capital One. Carolyn Berkowitz, the firm’s Managing Vice President of Community Affairs and President of the Capital One Foundation, spoke to WashingtonExec and took part in our Pro Bono Q&A series to talk about the company’s impact on the community, its history of community service and what she is most looking forward to at the event.

WashingtonExec: How does your company’s pro bono work not only impact the community, but also benefit your business?

Carolyn Berkowitz: We believe pro bono service is vitally important to our community and our nonprofit partners. It also provides valuable engagement and leadership development opportunities for our associates. Pro bono allows Capital One associates to apply their well developed business skills towards community outcomes, and we see the positive results not only in recipients but in our own employees. For example, more than 90 percent of Capital One managers said their associates’ leadership development skills were demonstrably improved after engaging in pro-bono work. Additionally, volunteering with community-based organizations is a key driver of associate engagement, and pro bono service tops the list as the most valued volunteer opportunity.

WashingtonExec: What is your company’s history in community service activities?

Carolyn Berkowitz: At Capital One, we have an ongoing commitment to strengthening the communities in which we live and work by investing a wide variety of resources in organizations and initiatives that improve economic outcomes for individuals and families. We call our approach Investing for Good, and it’s a holistic approach to community involvement. This involves, of course, financial support, but is also driven by volunteerism, pro bono service and thought leadership; for us, it’s about providing a system of wrap-around support for an organization or an issue. Last year alone, our associates volunteered more than 260,000 hours across our company’s footprint in ways that improved the economic outlook for residents of our communities.


“At Capital One, we have an ongoing commitment to strengthening the communities in which we live and work by investing a wide variety of resources in organizations and initiatives that improve economic outcomes for individuals and families”


WashingtonExec: What exactly is your company’s volunteer area of importance? Education, the environment, etc.

Carolyn Berkowitz: As part of our Investing for Good strategy, we focus our community activities in areas that together, provide economic opportunity for individuals and families:

  • Affordable housing
  • Education
  • Small business and workforce development
  • Financial literacy

A key component of Investing for Good is associate volunteerism, which has always been an integral part of our culture at Capital One. Since 2008, more than 750 Capital One associates have donated nearly 25,000 hours to 315 nonprofit partners, resulting in $7 million worth of services

WashingtonExec: Why did your company choose to take the A Billion+Change pledge?

Carolyn Berkowitz: Billion + Change is a movement that urges the corporate sector to participate fully in the community – way beyond checkbook sponsorships – a practice that Capital One has engaged in for a decade. Through the multi-sector collaboration, members of the Billion + Change initiative are bringing their unique organizational skills to the table to help solve our nation’s most pressing social issues and to work towards a future in which all communities are thriving. Without the full participation of all sectors of society, we cannot expect to make the significant strides that our communities need. Because of Billion + Change, we are changing the expectation for corporations to engage in a new kind of service whose returns surpass those of more traditional volunteering. Capital One is proud to be a part of this kind of innovation and to be a champion for others to join in the work.

In our pledge to A Billion + Change, Capital One has committed to increase our pro bono volunteer services to more than 100 additional community-based organizations by the end of this year, many in localities where our teams have not done pro bono work before. Last year, we partnered with the pro bono community to create a readiness tool to help nonprofits leverage skills-based volunteer services more effectively, and we are committed to supporting the dissemination and greater adoption of the tool nation-wide.

WashingtonExec: What are you most looking forward to at the event?

Carolyn Berkowitz: I’m looking forward to helping re-energize our community around pro bono service and to learning from my fellow panelists. I’m also looking forward to sharing strategies for maximizing pro bono opportunities with the Readiness Roadmap, which is a one-stop shop designed to help nonprofits navigate and manage skills-based volunteering. We’re excited to share this tool that will help empower nonprofits to maximize their readiness to receive pro bono, identify their skills-based volunteer needs and even find the right volunteers.


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