Kindling A Different Kind Of Corporate Citizenship
 With Service

The impact a worker can have when they devote their time giving their skills to a nonprofit is extraordinary. Companies should facilitate that if they’re looking to give back to the community.

Our communities face complex problems–thankfully, we have the resources we need to solve them. How can I say that when there is education disparity, jobs leaving towns, homeless children, even in a wealthy country like America?

This post is part of a series on the future of service in America, in conjunction with Catchafire.

Because we do. We have the talent and experience to find the innovative solutions that solve root problems. What we don’t have is the right channels of distribution to get the right resources to problems when they are needed. That’s frustrating.

The nonprofit sector has deep connections with communities; provides vast opportunity to innovate; integrates diverse teams; and knows how to partner to do more with less. The private sector  has rich process expertise, access to vast information, scale, global access to talent–and financial resources. It is in each sector’s interests for the other to thrive. Imagine what they could do for each other if they worked together.

Sector collaboration isn’t a small idea. It’s also not easy. It has deeply ingrained barriers, conflicts and–yes–prejudices. Breaking through those hurdles requires a new type of navigation and often requires a “translator” to help.

At Common Impact, we work on formulating ways to demonstrate positive outcomes between sectors. The first step is creating distinct opportunities for the private sector to work with nonprofits by leveraging their talent, their most strategic, philanthropic resource.  These opportunities needed to go beyond charity, demonstrating to C-suites the corporate ROI that is resident in these shared value engagements. While a corporate IT team might find reward in tutoring children, if they were to instead spend those hours creating an intranet for a nonprofit, they would exponentially increase the impact of their time.

When these employees partner with nonprofits in ways that develop skills which directly build their career, the employees and their companies receive significant value in addition to the nonprofit.  With that, service is no longer charity. Instead, these engagements amplify the impact and effectiveness of both sectors.  Moreover, participants become excited about their companies: 76% of volunteers feel more inclined to recommend their company as a great place to work for offering these opportunities, an incredibly important factor at a time when retaining talent is so critical.

Skills-based volunteerism (SBV) is not new. Still, it has only recently been named as a corporate philanthropic strategy and, in that, has new power. A new ecosystem has been created. A new community of “translators” has emerged using new channels to expand opportunities. SBV is quickly becoming an acronym that is part of our lexicon across sectors, cities, and countries.


The result? Billions of dollars in value. Unimaginable increases in community capacity that enable grant dollars to be used more effectively. Companies are integrating programs and community-focused work across their entire organizations, moving away from isolated community relations departments of years past. These are exciting sweeping changes.

What is the future of service in America? It will be at the intersection of sectors, organizations, and communities and will be found by breaking down the silos that exist there now.  Talent-driven service is one vehicle that will get us to that future.  As companies and nonprofits across the globe innovate and collaborate, we’ll unlock the resources needed to solve our communities’ most complex problems.    

About the author

Selena Schmidt is the CEO of Common Impact. Common Impact is an innovative nonprofit organization that provides skills-based volunteering, corporate social responsibility and talent management strategy and services to leading companies.