To kick-off National Volunteer Week, The 2013 Pro Bono Summit will be taking place on Monday April 22, with multiple companies participating in the event to share their ideas, best practices, innovations and more in skills-based volunteering. One of those companies taking part in the Pro Bono Summit is The Advisory Board Company.
Katie Brewer, Director of Community Impact for The Advisory Board Company, took part in WashingtonExec’s Pro Bono Summit Q&A series. She talked about her company’s impact on the community, the firm’s history in community service, it’s volunteer area of importance and more.
WashingtonExec: How does your company’s pro bono work not only impact the community, but also benefit your business?
Katie Brewer: The Advisory Board Company’s Community Impact program focuses on transforming our local communities through expertise-driven impact that yields the highest possible social and business return. We demonstrate the firm’s core value of the Spirit of Generosity by leveraging our professional skills to help those who serve those most in need and we view our work in the community to be mutually beneficial. Our Community Impact program not only yields positive change with the organizations we serve, but is also an engagement and professional development opportunity for our staff. For example, by hardwiring pro bono service into specific professional development cohorts, staff are able to apply their business skill sets to the needs of a nonprofit while honing their professional skills and taking on more elevated leadership roles.
Examples of how we have integrated skills based service into leadership development cohorts include:
- Advisory Board Fellowship – Rising, high-potential leaders are selected for this intensive program, the capstone of which is a 4-month pro bono project. The 2012 Fellowship class provided over $100K in benefit to six partner nonprofits.
- Women in Leadership – High-potential women leaders within the organization hosted a strategic brainstorming session with the Executive Director at Suited for Change, a women’s employment nonprofit, to craft an elevator pitch that emphasizes the direct relevance of career training and best practices on effectively setting expectations for volunteers. They also engaged in capacity building pro bono work on an ongoing basis.
- Entry level sales staff – The Denali cohort, designed to recognize and offer professional development to entry level Marketing Associates, incorporates sales and marketing pro bono projects into a larger professional development program. Improving the fundraising capacity of a nonprofit while sharpening their own marketing skills, was just one of the benefits for our entry level Marketing Associates in the Denali leadership program.
In 2012, we completed 50 pro bono projects led by both our professional development cohorts and individuals across the firm.
“We demonstrate the firm’s core value of the Spirit of Generosity by leveraging our professional skills to help those who serve those most in need and we view our work in the community to be mutually beneficial”
WashingtonExec: What is your company’s history in community service activities?
Katie Brewer: Since the firm’s inception, giving back to community has been at the core of what we believe. The Spirit of Generosity is one of our firm’s core values and guides us in the work we do in our communities. For many years, the firm measured our impact by how many employees volunteered and how many hours we spent volunteering. Within the last five years, we have shifted from a purely hands-on, hours driven service organization to an outcomes-driven corporate social responsibility program that yields the greatest possible impact in the community. The shift in how we approach service came in 2008, when we launched a groundbreaking practice, integrating a four-month pro bono service engagement into a professional development program for rising leaders. Then in 2009, in lieu of an offsite senior leadership retreat, 40 senior leaders spent a day (Policy Committee Day of Service) working with four local high performing nonprofits, offering their skill and expertise to the nonprofit leaders. Today, we continue to host our annual Policy Committee Day of Service and incorporate high impact pro bono engagements into leadership development cohorts and establish deep partnerships with local organizations. In 2012, we gave 20,000 hours of service of which 28 percent of those hours supported 50 high impact pro bono projects. This year, we aim to have an even greater outcomes driven program with our CEO challenging our staff to:
- Drive >$1 million in impact through volunteerism
- Positively touch 10,000 lives
- Achieve 100 percent employee participation.
WashingtonExec: What exactly is your company’s volunteer area of importance? Education, the environment, etc.
Katie Brewer: As a professional services firm serving the healthcare and higher education industries, our core assets and competencies are our people and extensive industry knowledge. While we do not have “signature issues” to avoid limiting individual’s personal impact choices, we leverage our industry expertise in four areas:
- Community health center support
- Improving holistic health outcomes
- At risk and under-resourced youth
- Enhancing educational outcomes
Examples of this work include our Philanthropy Leadership Council contributing knowledge of hospital donor strategy to a local community clinic’s social media fundraising project and best practice research consulting teams educating the Career Academy’s board/staff about the health care environment and offered curriculum and training suggestions.
WashingtonExec: Why did your company choose to take the A Billion+Change pledge?
Katie Brewer: We wanted to be a part of the Billion+Change community that’s inspiring others to offer their skill to drive high impact outcomes because we believe in the transformative change that comes from our staff leveraging their skills to support the nonprofit community. We want to inspire and be inspired by the transformative work of companies around the globe and Billion+Change connects us to those inspiring and transformative organizations.
WashingtonExec: What are you most looking forward to at the event?
Katie Brewer: We are most excited about coming together with like-minded service organizations to share best practices and engage in conversation about how to work together as a corporate community to address community priorities.