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Corporate Responsibility in Action

Pro Bono ... It's Not Just for Lawyers Anymore

Created: 13 Aug 2013
Hillary Weingast's picture
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Did you know that Symantec's legal department has had a formal pro bono program since 2007?

Since 2007, Symantec attorneys, paralegals and public affairs staff have been applying their day-job skills to volunteer with Legal Aid Society of San Mateo County and the Pro Bono Project of Silicon Valley. Our team helps families retain their homes, transition to new housing when faced with eviction, deal with landlord issues, address imminent homelessness and protect domestic violence survivors from their abusers. With its origins in the legal profession, pro bono has grown to include many diverse professional functions.  Pro bono, unlike traditional forms of volunteerism, uses business skills to provide services for the public good without compensation.

The impact of our pro bono program has been immense, both internally and externally. Without access to courts or legal services, vulnerable populations can struggle to navigate through the complexities and language of the law.

One of the important things to emphasize is that the Symantec pro bono team is not solely comprised of attorneys. One of the questions I frequently get from people is, “but I’m not an attorney—how can I help?” Our pro bono work has many opportunities for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Volunteer attorneys take cases, represent clients and staff legal clinics. Non-attorney volunteers provide administration, help with paperwork, translation services, and research. And sometimes just providing that sympathetic ear can be helpful to the client. Everyone counts!

I’ve found that the most challenging aspects of pro bono are finding the time and just getting started. It’s easy to identify the opportunities—the need is out there. And once you’ve tried pro bono, it gets easier and easier to do—and it’s so rewarding. Following are some tips on getting started with a pro bono project.

Getting Started with Pro bono

1. Align pro bono work with your skill set

My father told me, “It’s a marathon—pace yourself.” Although you might want to jump in and create an all-encompassing formal program, it’s best to start small and look for opportunities that align with your department’s unique skill sets and goals:

  • Are you looking to foster teambuilding?
  • Do you want to retain your high performers?
  • Do you want to increase your external visibility?
  • Is skill development an issue you want to address?
  • Do you want to foster a climate of innovation?

The business benefits are there—and the social impact is immeasurable.

I encourage other managers to think about how their departments can use their unique professional skills to help others. For example, if you’re in Finance, you could lend your skills to help a nonprofit with its budgets or help determine the economic feasibility of adding a new social program. If you’re in a technology role, your skills could help nonprofits evaluate new hardware/software donations or upgrade to a more secure server. Marketing teams could develop a social media campaign or write targeted fundraising appeals—the possibilities are limitless.

2. Plan, promote, organize

Once you’ve determined your goals, it’s time to get organized. Identify an executive champion within your group who supports this concept and its benefits of culture-enrichment, teambuilding, skill development and recruiting/reputation enhancement. Look for opportunities that are quick wins and are not difficult to implement. Ask for volunteers to help plan, promote, identify the nonprofits and organize. And remember— our Symantec CR team is there to help and answer any questions for internal teams. External resources from pro bono specialists like the Taproot Foundation and Billion+Change are also useful.

Our people and our talents are our greatest strengths. As managers for a corporation with thousands of employees, we need to leverage these talents to develop and inspire our future leaders. Each of us has a skill that nonprofits need, just like our business. It’s a give-get. Our employees provide the talent and the nonprofits provide an inspirational experience that opens eyes to new ways of problem-solving. When we give what differentiates us in the marketplace, we will produce not only significant benefit for the community, but for ourselves.

I encourage you to explore the possibilities for your department, and your particular skill sets. Some ideas are included below. Share your pro bono success stories here in the comments, or contact us at CR@Symantec.com!

CORPORATE  DEPARTMENTS

CORPORATE SKILLS/FUNCTIONS

NEEDS OF NONPROFITS

Accounting/Finance

  • Budgeting/forecasting
  • Accounts payable
  • Budgeting
  • Fiscal planning
  • Billing & collections
  • Cash flow analysis

Advertising/PR

  • Media relations
  • Communications strategy
  • Event planning & promotion
  • Message creation
  • Audience segmentation
  • Media exposure
  • Event planning & production
  • Reaching target audiences
  • Fundraising

Creative Services

  • Creation & design of materials
  • Brand strategy & management
  • Consistent branding
  • Promotional materials
  • Cause campaigns

Customer Care

  • Customer surveys
  • Issue resolution
  • Tracking customer feedback
  • Donor and client feedback
  • Tracking client interactions

Human Resources

  • Recruiting & retention
  • Performance review process
  • Training & development
  • Diversity
  • Recruiting & retention
  • Performance review process
  • Training & development
  • Employee morale
  • Employee feedback

IT

  • Data security
  • System solutions
  • Tech support
  • Donor/client database
  • Website development

Marketing/Sales

  • Customer prospecting
  • Sales presentations
  • Merchandising
  • Increased fundraising
  • Donor development
  • Donor recognition
  • Social media outreach

Product Development

  • Consumer trends
  • Competitive analysis
  • Product testing
  • Quality Assurance
  • Community needs assessment
  • New services development
  • Measuring outcomes

Operations/Facilities

  • Operational effectiveness
  • Systems & processes
  • Building security
  • Maintenance
  • Space planning
  • Volunteer coordination
  • Improved use of space
  • Improved processes

Copyright ©2009 Deloitte Development

Hillary Weingast is Vice President, Legal, and the developer of Symantec's Legal and Public Affairs Pro Bono Program.