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4 Ways Pro Bono Service Impacts Volunteers, Companies, Nonprofits & Schools

By June 23, 2022

Empowerment is the greatest form of impact. Why? Because it’s not something you can give, but rather a way to unlock the potential in others. 

Effective pro bono volunteer programs — also known as skills-based volunteering — are built upon this idea. While the obvious benefit is that nonprofits and schools are empowered by resources that might otherwise be out of reach, the value extends further. For volunteers, it enables skills development, and improves wellbeing by connecting their work with their purpose. For the companies that offer these programs, it helps create the kind of company culture that attracts and retains talent. 

So you might say that pro bono volunteering is a win-win-win. In fact, we’ve been saying this for almost a decade! However, we’ve learned over the last eight years that the reality is that what comes out of these programs is even bigger than that. It’s one of the most effective ways for companies to achieve social impact goals. By working closely with communities, they can increase the capacity and ability to not just imagine a better world, but build it.

Over the years, Salesforce has surveyed thousands of volunteers and nonprofits that have participated in the Pro Bono Program. Here are some highlights from the past year that show the impact of pro bono volunteering on its many stakeholders.

Nonprofits and Schools Access Skills and Resources

Technology alone cannot help us reach our full potential, but we also can’t make progress without it. This reality was only reinforced by the pandemic, and the digital imperative. Unfortunately, many nonprofits and schools find themselves struggling to access the resources and expertise they need to navigate these changes, nor address the digital divide that exists in the communities they serve.

The projects in and of themselves are high value. When you combine time spent by volunteers with their expertise, each project is valued at an average of $195 per hour. If you’ve ever spent time fundraising for an organization, you know just how far that kind of money can go.

When you look at the return of those projects, the resulting value is more than the dollar amount. Once completed, organizations will have increased capacity to deliver on their missions, and over the last few years, 90% of nonprofits have reported to us that they can better deliver on their mission with this support. 

WELD Seattle, for example, helps those who have been impacted by the criminal justice system successfully re-enter society. To be effective in their work, which reduces the re-arrest rate from 76% to 3% for those they serve, they need to work in a time-sensitive manner. Through the pro bono program, WELD was able to create forms for employers to post jobs, and for clients to apply. This system quickly matched job-seekers with work, freeing up time for the staff to focus on clients and their programs, rather than administration. 

Organizations of all sizes, across all cause areas, are empowered by pro bono projects with more effective of their existing technology, new resources and increased skills and knowledge.That means more children get access to education, more trees get planted, more people go to sleep with full bellies in warm beds, and more animals find loving homes.

Volunteers Align Personal and Professional Development

The “Great Resignation” received a lot of attention in the last year. However, some refer to it perhaps more accurately, as the “Great Reflection.” The shut down and stay-at-home orders pushed us as a society to examine what was working, and what wasn’t. For individuals, it meant reflecting on what really mattered, what was driving us, and what wasn’t serving us. 

People increasingly want to feel a sense of purpose in their work. What better way to connect to that sense of purpose than by using the professional skills they use daily in service of a cause they truly care about? In fact, in our most recent Annual Volunteer Survey, 93% of people who participated in a pro bono project reported they felt happier, and had greater purpose in their everyday work. The effect of those good feelings is further amplified by an improved sense of wellbeing, with 79% of people reporting lower stress.

“[Pro Bono volunteering is a] fantastic experience that will provide you with a greater sense of purpose – not to mention the extra product and people skills you develop along the way. Thanks so much for the opportunity, Salesforce!”
– Business Analysis Manager, Salesforce, post-project employee survey

As important as feeling good is, pro bono volunteering also empowers employees to stretch their abilities and learn something new. According to the Annual Volunteer Survey, 96% of those who do pro bono projects say they gain skills — including leadership, team building and problem solving — which are all crucial to career growth.  

Companies Create a Culture for Employees to Thrive

Many studies have shown that happier employees are more productive. When they feel as though their work has meaning, and the company cares about them and their communities, it’s easier to be more invested in the day to day. As they build their skills during these projects, it often translates into accelerated career growth, with almost one in five volunteers reporting that their experience led to a promotion or new role, according to last year’s Annual Volunteer Survey. 

It’s no surprise that happier employees also stay longer. At Salesforce, employees who volunteer are 40% more likely to stay, according to our 2021 employee success data. The reduction in turnover means reduced costs associated with having to backfill roles and find new talent. 

And when we need to attract top talent, volunteering plays yet another important role. As I mentioned earlier, people want to feel a sense of purpose in their work. Many top candidates will ask about company culture, philanthropy, and values, which are becoming make-or-break criteria when they consider an offer. At Salesforce, giving back and volunteering have been a part of our DNA from day one, and now over 93% of survey respondents feel pro bono volunteering plays a significant role in Salesforce’s culture, according to our 2022 Annual Volunteer Survey. This helps us attract some of the best talent around the world.

Communities Thrive 

Whatever happens in our communities — locally and globally — affects us all. If we want to make progress on the challenges we all face, we need to ensure the communities around us have the opportunity to thrive. Pro bono volunteering offers a tangible way to contribute.

Friends of Trees is an organization that uses Nonprofit Cloud to manage volunteers, donors, and partners who want to improve the natural world by planting trees. Their reporting system, however, was complicated, and made it difficult for employees to trust their accuracy. By working with a pro bono volunteer at Salesforce, they were able to create an action-oriented report that helped them build a data-driven strategy to provide equitable access to trees, education, and jobs. This work has contributed to the betterment of multiple aspects of the community.

Giving back has been an important pillar of our company from its founding, and our employees have embraced it from day one. While there are many benefits to volunteering, as we’ve outlined above, the leading reason Salesforce employees volunteer is to contribute to their communities.

At Salesforce, we believe that business is the greatest platform for change. But we also know that the fate of the future does not rest with corporations alone. We all have a role to play in making the changes we want to see in our communities. Pro bono volunteering creates the opportunity for us to come together across backgrounds, professional skills, and expertise to learn from each other and empower one another. It expands our understanding of the world around us and leads to the kind of collaboration that produces more innovation with greater impact.

Learn more about the Pro Bono Program. 

Cheryl Timoney, Vice President, Tech for Social Impact,

About the Author

Cheryl Timoney
Vice President, Tech for Social Impact,

Cheryl is the vice president of Tech for Social Impact at helping change-makers realize the promise of technology to scale their missions and impact. Cheryl has designed and scaled high-impact programs, including the Pro Bono Program, Technology Grants, and Impact Labs. Previously, Cheryl led program teams in the nonprofit sector building community solutions for economic and community development. Outside of, Cheryl serves on the Board of Directors for Community Action Marin.