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Citizen Philanthropy: Delivering Impactful Pro Bono Support From Anywhere

By Kate O'Connor February 7, 2022

By: Kate O’Connor, Innovation Consulting Manager, Salesforce Ignite UK&I;
Kevin Smeeing, Innovation Consulting Manager, Salesforce Ignite UK&I;
Anna-Sophie Oertzen
, Innovation Consulting Manager, Salesforce Ignite EMEA

Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Venture2Impact (V2I) — a nonprofit organization based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada — had a business model that was entirely based on global travel. Bringing skilled volunteers together in person with passionate and integrated local organisations around the world was how V2I worked towards their mission of helping global communities break the cycle of poverty. The organization has an impressive range of partnerships — 20 nonprofit partners, and over 250 volunteers delivering impact across five continents — with partners and impact increasing every year. The onset of the pandemic not only impacted the organization’s global partners, but also their loyal community of repeat volunteers that they’d developed through a strong model for skills-based volunteering.

Clearly, the V2I team needed a quick pivot to a new way to achieve their mission. But with so many other priorities pulling the team in a million directions, it was nearly impossible to spend time on strategic planning when they also needed to focus on critical areas like operations, fundraising, and ongoing support of their volunteers and partners — all while grappling with the short- and long-term impacts of a global pandemic.

Enter the Salesforce Ignite team, whose mission it is to help our most ambitious Salesforce customers accelerate their human-centered transformation journey. This means that we help them to transform their business — not only digitally, but using a human-centered approach that develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective in all the steps of a problem-solving process. When V2I’s co-founder, Fadi Al Qassar, told us about the challenges his organization was experiencing and we learned about all the positive impact that might be lost, we were keen to help in whatever way we could.

Men and women sitting at a table looking at a video call screen
Venture 2 Impact leveraged technology to continue providing nonprofit partners and volunteers around the world with necessary tools and training to advance their mission despite challenges created by the pandemic.

We began by working on an alignment process called “V2MOM”, which stands for: Vision, Values, Methods, Obstacles, and Measures. This is a process developed by Salesforce — and also adopted and widely used by V2I — which helped us in focusing our collective energy, better understanding the current challenges, and determining how we would like to work together in the future.

Through this exercise, we quickly discovered a strong alignment in values and agreed to focus on co-creation, designing with empathy, and action-oriented thinking. Through in-depth interviews with V2I volunteers, charity partners, and corporate partners, we developed a deeper understanding of the problem and what was at stake. With these insights in mind, we turned to ideating and designing new potential business models with V2I to engage and deliver impact in a scalable, digital way.

Grounded in the in-depth interviews and several ideation sessions, we proposed five new concepts to pivot V2I’s business model, which we jointly refined to two concepts. In the next step, we tested and validated these potential business models through user-shaping labs, including volunteers, charity partners, and corporate pro bono managers. Upon further refinement, we crafted a phased approach for implementation to support V2I in their execution.

1. Volunteer Alliance Projects

This concept addresses the needs of nonprofits for continued support, training, mentorship, and engagement with their communities. These initiatives will be short-term in nature (1-8 weeks), and will be positioned to Pledge 1% companies for their employees to engage in curated, digital, and skills-based volunteering based on availability and interests. The focus in these projects is on being able to demonstrate real impact, which will be apparent after one week.

Ecosystem map for Venture2Impact
Ecosystem map visually representing Venture2Impact, the system it operates within and value exchanges between key partners.

2. Adopt A Project

Ecosystem map for Venture2Impact
Ecosystem map representing the adopt-a-project concept with key value exchanges.

This concept focuses on long-term, system-changing interventions in contrast to shorter, more specific challenges. An example of such an approach is the support of women’s economic empowerment in places like Uganda or Rwanda through leveraging technology for mobile-based training, business mentorship by local experts, and global skill-based volunteers. This will allow volunteers or companies to have deep engagement with a case they are passionate about, donating their skills over a longer period of time (12-36 months) and increasing societal impact.

Volunteer from Anywhere with Citizen Philanthropy

For Ignite, this pro bono project represented a new way of volunteering. We developed stronger relationships within our team and across regions — even as we collaborated on this project from our homes. We learned new ways of volunteering together, working asynchronously and in bite-sized tasks, to onboard team members for smaller chunks across the project. We developed sustainable relationships with an organization on the other side of the world, who we now feel closely connected with and continue to be engaged with through long-term planning and quarterly V2MOM sessions. Inspired and motivated by V2I’s impactful work, we now have a team of Citizen Philanthropists, mindful of what is going on in the world and supporting causes that have meaning to us personally.

Results for Venture2Impact

Grounded in the two business model concepts presented above, V2I is currently rolling out trials, which offer a new model of operation and a new way of delivering impact remotely. They have already developed, tested, and iterated the concepts through the initial pilots, which included a hack-a-thon for child sponsorship in Uganda and an eight week youth entrepreneurship training and mentorship program in The Gambia. At Ignite, we are super impressed with the speed of innovation and action demonstrated by the small-but-mighty V2I team! Learn more about how your team can get involved with V2I.

Interested in pro bono support for your nonprofit or educational institution? Learn more about how Salesforce volunteers can help.


About the Author

Kate O’Connor, Senior Analyst (Strategy), Innovation Consulting, Salesforce Ignite UK&I
Kate O’Connor
Innovation Consulting Manager, Salesforce Ignite UK&I
Kate is a big picture thinker and strategist on the Salesforce Ignite team, based in the West of Ireland. She’s enthusiastic about collaborating and co-creating with others to tackle the hairiest of problems, and designing better futures for stakeholders, customers, and communities.
Kevin Smeeing, Innovation Consulting Manager, Salesforce Ignite UK&I
Kevin Smeeing
Innovation Consulting Manager, Salesforce Ignite UK&I
As a strategic designer at Ignite in the UKI, Salesforce’s inhouse innovation team, Kevin helps customers solve their transformation challenges through human-centred design and systems thinking. Kevin is passionate about purpose driven innovation and is an advocate for designing for inclusion.
Anna-Sophie Oertzen, Innovation Consulting Manager, Salesforce Ignite EMEA
Anna-Sophie Oertzen
Innovation Consulting Manager, Salesforce Ignite EMEA
Anna-Sophie is a co-creation adept who explores innovative ways to design and deliver human-centric and profitable applications and solutions, with particular focus on ecosystem thinking and healthcare. As part of Salesforce Ignite, she is supporting clients in driving strategic change through human-centered design to accelerate their digital transformation journey. Further drawing on her Ph.D. in Service Design and Innovation, Anna-Sophie is also a frequent speaker and author in industry and academia.