Getting it Right Pt. 2: Embracing Integrated Corporate Philanthropy & Pro Bono Work

Pro Bono Work

Image courtesy of Jeff Sheldon at

As I mentioned in my post last week, Getting it Right Pt. 1: How to Give Meaningful Corporate In-Kind Donations, corporate philanthropy and CSR (more broadly) work best when initiatives are integrated into the company’s everyday actions. Holistic and cross-cutting systems for long-term sustainability create scalable impact.

Writing a cheque and walking away simply won’t do.

Instead, one fabulous way to embrace integrated corporate philanthropy is by encouraging employees to participate in pro bono work opportunities. Months back in my post, Enhancing Employee Engagement via Skills-Based Volunteering, I spoke about the importance of providing employees with skills-based volunteering opportunities.

Today, I’ll make the distinction between skills-based volunteering and pro bono work, showcasing the reasons why pro bono work (as a form of skills-based volunteering) is particularly beneficial for companies.

As Realized Worth defines it, skills-based volunteering includes “any time someone uses their abilities, talents, networks and resources to get a volunteering commitment completed.”

Pro bono work is a type of skills-based volunteering, defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “being, involving, or doing professional and especially legal work donated especially for the public good.”

Though pro bono work is typically accompanied with an emphasis on legal work, its scope is actually a bit broader than that.

Despite popular belief, pro bono work isn’t just something lawyers do.

Take for instance the incredible purpose-driven work of Perkins+Will, a research-based architecture and design firm that was “founded on the belief that design has the power to transform lives and enhance communities.”

Every year, the company donates 1% of its design services to pro bono work and it’s been incredibly successful. One of my favourite projects was their redesign of the Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) office space. Perkins+Will redesigned the non-profit’s office–taking into consideration the environment and work culture–incorporating an optimal work space in compliance with LEED standards.

Xerox Canada Ltd also embraces pro bono work initiatives. In partnership with Free The Children, Xerox Canada Ltd provides the in-kind support of printers, copiers, scanners, paper and ink service. In combination with their meaningful in-kind donation initiatives, they also provide pro bono operations and general servicing support.

This is integrated corporate philanthropy at its finest.

Corporate social responsibility works best when it’s integrated into the company’s daily habits and operations. The examples above emphasize how seamless the process can be.

Corporate philanthropy 2.0 (or maybe even 3.0?) has arrived and a tipping point has occurred. It’s important to ensure that your company’s CSR leaders understand this and remain ahead of the trend, scaling impact and disrupting the business as usual status quo.

If you’ve been part of an integrated corporate philanthropy initiative, whether it included an in-kind giving initiative or pro bono work, I invite you to share your experiences and best practices in the comments section below.

I also welcome you to follow the blog and follow me on Twitter @CSRtist.

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