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Pro bono service among corporations is no longer a novelty and is becoming a real tenet of companies' CSR programs, thanks to organizations like Taproot Foundation, that are leading the way in coordinating pro bono projects and connecting corporations and the nonprofits benefiting from their services.
A few weeks ago, Taproot Foundation contributed a post that reflects on the fact that continuing to focus on CSR in these economic times is crucial for companies. Not only is it important for their brands and consumer trust, but as shown in their research, employees are also expecting companies to engage in CSR and in turn are proud of them for doing so. Taproot shared a list of companies that are leading the way with us. One of the great successes of their list is Capital One:
Capital One focuses on creating a culture in which their associates can thrive. It is this understanding of the power of human capital that led several years ago to the creation of one of the earliest and most innovative in-house pro bono programs in the country, setting the bar for corporate community investment. In 2008, spearheaded by Community Affairs, Capital One created a Pro Bono Roundtable to formalize their burgeoning pro bono program and its interdisciplinary approach. The Roundtable brought together their two established Pro Bono Corps initiatives (Brand and Technology) and has supported the development of new Corps (Legal, HR, IT, Finance and others), sharing knowledge about challenges and opportunities across their varied pro bono efforts. It is this strategic approach that has set a strong foundation for scaling the pro bono program across their markets.
We interviewed, Emily Talley, Senior Director of Community Programs, to learn and share from their experiences in their early adoption of pro bono programs.
Sokunthea: It sounds like Capital One has a great structure for its pro bono program. What advice would you have for companies that want to start building a pro bono program for their employees?
Emily: Capital One benefits from having many associates who demonstrate their commitment to our communities in countless ways. We also receive insightful direction from national experts like the Taproot Foundation and the Pro Bono Action Tank to help guide development of a program; we encourage other companies to do the same. Internally, most programs thrive when senior leadership is engaged and become an advocate for an initiative. Once implemented, it’s just as important to find ways to keep leadership informed regarding current status. Next, be sure to align pro bono engagements with the overarching philanthropic and community strategy.
Sokunthea: Choosing the right cause is critical for companies that want to leverage their resources and employees. How do you go about identifying causes your employees and company care about?
Emily: Capital One’s philanthropic focus areas include education, community development, and financial literacy. These focus areas were chosen by our associates, and their feedback continues to shape our programs. In addition to general feedback, we also solicit feedback from Capital One executives who serve on nonprofit boards or collaborate with local market managers via advisory councils. Based on this feedback, we choose our community partners and we work to constantly refine as well as evaluate our programs.
Sokunthea: How does Capital One’s commitment to pro bono volunteering not only good for the community but also good for your business?
Emily: The Capital One Pro Bono program further reinforces our company commitment to social responsibility, strategically enhances the connection with targeted community leaders, and supports CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) compliance. Capital One has found that offering pro bono services to targeted non-profit partners is a great way to holistically advance its philanthropic and corporate volunteerism strategies, leveraging the talent of associates for the benefit of the community. In 2008, Capital One associates contributed more than 2,600 hours to 50 national and local nonprofit partners, resulting in more than $2 million in professional services. Via a partnership with a national research firm, a recent internal study indicates a correlation between pro bono projects and competency development, allowing Capital One associates to enhance their skills while providing an important service to the community.