A Path for Change Appears – The Business Angle

Guest post by Kori Reed, vice president, Cause & Foundation, ConAgra Foods

A Path Appears - The Business Angle“Have courage and be kind.”

This is the mom wisdom from the 2015 Disney adaptation of the famous Cinderella story, and is, in essence, the theme of the movie.

As Washington Post Express film reporter Kristen Page-Kirby wrote, “What ‘Cinderella’ shows is that you can have courage, and you can be kind, and it might suck.” Those of us who work in corporate contributions or community engagement can relate.

After all, companies are made up of kind people – caring real-life mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, caregivers and more – and the entity as a whole is responsible for turning a profit for owners and investors. Our peers from finance and supply chain often don’t see our work on balanced scorecards, therefore, some of them struggle to see the strategy behind it. Yes, being kind and making friends on behalf of the company, while very rewarding, can suck for that reason.

Yet, much like our company peers, we are problem solvers on a regular basis. In our case, it’s solving problems in the community. While company project managers use the language of analyze, plan, do, check, our words include pilot testing, scaling ideas, off-setting labor costs via volunteerism, evidence-based interventions and pathways to prosperity.

So, how do we tackle an issue like poverty? Start with what works. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, award winning journalists did just that in their most recent book, A Path Appears. It includes pages of evidence-based ways to create opportunity among our nation’s and world’s most vulnerable. It is a call to action for individuals, communities and corporations alike, to be courageous and show kindness by helping others. (If you coordinate volunteerism for the company, the later chapters even address the benefits of that work. Helping others really helps us too!)

They include the role of business in creating pathways, and for me, that hit the sweet-spot. At ConAgra Foods, we know so well how hunger at a young age can harm a child’s chances for future growth, both physically and mentally.

As a visual learner, I reached out to WuDunn to develop the map of a path, a kind of a Chutes and Ladders for Life. In corporate speak, think of this as a human process maps. I hope it shows how possible it is for us to be strategic as well as kind, and do our part to break the cycle of poverty, a large complex issue that so encumbers our society and societies around the world.

It is in our collective interest that people have the ability purchase the goods and services we offer. Here’s hoping this visual path gives people the courage to jump in and sparks an idea for how to be kind to others in a way that creates opportunity for all. Alignment toward a goal is what we business people do well. Walking a path again and again also helps others see it more clearly. Have courage, and be kind; start here.

VolunteerMatch Partners Make Up 20% of The Civic 50

Civic 50 LogoEvery year, Bloomberg identifies the most community-minded companies in the country with The Civic 50. These are corporations who give extreme amounts of their time, money & products back to great community and global causes.

Once again, many VolunteerMatch corporate partners appear on this prestigious list. In fact, they make up 20% of the list! We are so proud to be helping these companies achieve their corporate social responsibility goals.

This year, the following VolunteerMatch corporate partners were named in The Civic 50:

  • Apollo Education Group
  • AT&T
  • ConAgra Foods
  • Dr. Pepper Snapple Group
  • Eli Lilly and Company
  • Gap Inc.
  • Raytheon
  • UnitedHealth Group
  • Verizon
  • Viacom


Tess Marstaller, a member of VolunteerMatch’s client relations team, commented on how working with these amazing companies and seeing their names on this list affects her:

“Working with these civic leaders, I get to see how the individual commitment and passion of each employee adds up to create the large-scale impact of these companies.”

Congratulations to our partners for your inspiring achievement. We can’t wait to see what incredible things you will accomplish in 2015!

The Value of Giving Back: 1st Source Bank

It’s Pro Bono Week 2014! Join us in celebrating the amazing volunteers who donate their professional skills to great causes. This week’s final featured company: 1st Source Bank.1st Source Bank Volunteers at Super Saturday

As many a cheesy song or cliché politician has reminded us, the children are our future. As it turns out, kids are pretty smart already. The nonprofit Junior Achievement knows this, which is why they teach entrepreneurial and financial skills to children.

Also, as it turns out, professional bankers know quite a bit about finance. This is why 1st Source Bank partnered with Junior Achievement to put their pro bono thoughts into actions. 31 bank employees recently spent a day at an elementary school introducing children to financial literacy. Bank employees called the experience valuable for them – not just the kids!

1st Source Bank also participates in other pro bono activities, such as Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Super Saturday (pictured above), where they partner with the United Way to offer tax preparation and filing for free. Giving back to their community is one of 1st Source Bank’s core values, which is evident in the fact that over 45% of their employees are active volunteers. Last year, employees volunteered 27,000 hours, equal to about $600,000. Talk about giving back!

Thank you to 1st Source Bank and the other companies that engage in pro bono work. You truly are role models. Pro Bono Week 2014 may be coming to an end, but we don’t want the momentum to stop! VolunteerMatch makes it easy to set up your own employee volunteer program and encourage pro bono work. Find out how.

The Important Thing We Can Learn From MUFG Union Bank

It’s Pro Bono Week 2014! Join us in celebrating the amazing volunteers who donate their professional skills to great causes. Today’s featured company: MUFG Union Bank.MUFG Union Bank Volunteers at JA Finance Park 2014

The employees at MUFG Union Bank, or MUB, recognize something important. A concept so important that it’s the driving force behind Pro Bono Week. They recognize that volunteering their specialized professional skills is one of the most impactful contributions they can make to society. That’s why they created their annual Financial Literacy Campaign. During this three-month campaign, employees go out into their communities to teach financial education. They make presentations and facilitate workshops that equip their neighbors with skills to manage their own finances. In 2014’s campaign, MUB employees volunteered over 4,200 hours to this awesome pro bono endeavor.

But it doesn’t stop there. These amazing folks do pro bono work year-round with nonprofit partners in their communities. While the focus is financial education, employees offer their skills in all kinds of areas. All in all, MUB employees have tracked 42,000 volunteer hours this year alone.

Looking for an easy way to track your company’s pro bono impact? Visit VolunteerMatch Solutions today to get started.

Challenge Your Employees to Go Pro Bono: A Lesson from Morgan Stanley

It’s Pro Bono Week 2014! Join us in celebrating the amazing volunteers who donate their professional skills to great causes. Today’s featured company: Morgan Stanley.Volunteers from the Morgan Stanley Strategy Challenge

Morgan Stanley doesn’t just encourage its employees to volunteer. It challenges them. The Morgan Stanley Strategy Challenge pairs some of the company’s best workers with 12 nonprofits for eight weeks. During this time, the groups work together to assess and improve the nonprofits’ business and financial strategies. The final result is a plan complete with tangible next steps and tools for future success. The results are invaluable, but if you had to put a price on it, it would be… $6.8 million. This five-year total is equivalent to 45,000 hours of pro bono work.

But it’s not just the nonprofits that benefit. Morgan Stanley employee David Kosh, who participated in the program in 2013, claims the experience was “eye-opening, educational and inspirational”. He learned about the nonprofit sector, gained professional connections, and improved his own skills. Pro bono work, along with other types of volunteering, is truly a win-win arrangement.

Want to be the next Morgan Stanley in terms of pro bono excellence? Visit VolunteerMatch Solutions to learn how to get your company’s employees volunteering.

Raising the Pro Bono Bar: The U.S. Bank Law Division

It’s Pro Bono Week 2014! Join us in celebrating the amazing volunteers who donate their professional skills to great causes. Today’s featured company: The U.S. Bank Law Division.Volunteers from US Bank Law Division

Pro bono work was made famous by the law profession, and the crew at the U.S. Bank Law Division is living up to this precedent.

The U.S. Bank Law Division works all across the U.S. at places such as a Vet Law Clinic, Housing Court, Immigrant Law Center, and Children’s Law Center. In the Twin Cities region alone, they’ve donated their time and skills to eight clinics.

In 2013, 70% of their lawyers engaged in pro bono activities. Even their non-lawyers got involved at a rate of 52%. The U.S. Bank Law Division is rightfully proud of their staff. Talk about impressive! They cite pro bono work as a priority for both their employees and their company as a whole.

Pictured above are some of the U.S. Bank’s pro bono volunteers. From left to right: Melissa Vermeersch, Sarah Stroebel (Chair), Jeannie Mccarver, Shannon Mahoney (Coordinator), Kyle Bakken, and Nick Richtman.

Encourage your own employees to get involved with pro bono and other volunteering opportunities with VolunteerMatch Solutions.

Innovation is a Given with a Network Like This One: Announcing Groundbreaking New VolunteerMatch Tools

As we celebrate our 7,000,000th match, VolunteerMatch is once again changing how people discover great places to volunteer.Back in 2001, VolunteerMatch welcomed an important addition to our network: our first corporate partners. These companies completed the VolunteerMatch picture, creating a strong ecosystem of nonprofits, volunteers and businesses that, together, strengthens our communities and our world.

Twelve years later the VolunteerMatch network is stronger than ever, with 7 million nonprofit-volunteer connections made to date and more than $4.5 billion in comparative volunteering value generated with your support for the independent sector – made possible by 170 corporate partners.

As we celebrate these milestones, we’re excited to announce continued investment in the growth of the VolunteerMatch network with the release this month of a new recommendations engine and an upgraded website design that makes it easier for people to find the perfect volunteer opportunity. The new recommendations engine from VolunteerMatch is designed to make looking for volunteer opportunities easier and more compelling. The recommendations engine is designed to make looking for volunteer opportunities easier and more compelling. Users can now update their profiles with their interests and skills to display on their profile page the best possible matches from VolunteerMatch’s database of more than 70,000 active volunteer opportunities.

In addition, the VolunteerMatch home page has been completely redesigned around the experience of the individual volunteer. To catalyze people to action, localization services now show actionable opportunities based on what VolunteerMatch already knows is going on in your community. The new home page also prominently shows virtual volunteer opportunities that can be accomplished remotely from work or home. To catalyze people to action, localization services on the VolunteerMatch home page now show actionable opportunities based on what VolunteerMatch already knows is going on in your community. Working with companies, and the support they provide, enables VolunteerMatch to build tools like the recommendations engine that support more organizations and create a stronger community for your employees and consumer audiences.

New tools like the recommendations engine and the localization and personalization of the VolunteerMatch.org home page are also ways we can experiment with features that improve the connections between nonprofits and volunteers. This helps to inform the development of better tools for our corporate partners down the road – so stay tuned for that!

Learn more about the new recommendations engine and home page at VolunteerMatch.org. What do you think of these changes?