When we think of how nonprofits ask for support, we usually think of request for donations. And rightly so — nonprofit organizations rely heavily on donations to do and grow their work. But in addition to financial gifts, there are critical investments that we can make to help nonprofits thrive.

For example: last week was our winter deadline to submit project proposals for our Blue Corps Pro Bono program, which pairs the business skills of our Blue Cross colleagues with nonprofits who have exciting opportunities for growth. Blue Cross employs 2,600 Louisianians, and our talent pool comprises all of the skills necessary to keep a major business running (IT, HR, business planning and analytics, marketing, translation services, etc.). We know there are nonprofit partners who need this talent, but can’t hire or contract for it because of financial constraints. So, our colleagues volunteer to lend out their day-job skills for causes they’re passionate about.

After reviewing the proposals, I could say “There’s good news and there’s bad news,” but instead I’m going to say, “There’s good news, and there’s opportunity.”

First and foremost, I’m delighted that this program that our team created from scratch is thriving: we received twice as many project proposals as we did last year (nearly 80 in just a few weeks), and it was easier than ever to find a talented pool of Blue Cross colleagues who wanted to serve. Over the last three years, the nonprofit partners we’ve worked with have expressed sincere gratitude for the talents of our colleagues and we’ve seen several grow rapidly as a result of the projects completed.

The opportunity lies in the fact that we can only staff a limited number of projects, which means there is a tremendous opportunity for other businesses to step in and help nonprofits address critical needs. From marketing plans, earned-income plans and financial policies to HR policies, websites, annual reports, videos and more we’ve got a variety of requests for skills and support that could be met by talented individuals around our state. (And if your business has Spanish language translators, you are especially needed!)

If you’re a business owner or leader (small, large or in between) I’d encourage you to consider two ideas: Volunteer Time Off (VTO) and supporting skilled pro bono work in teams. These are two ways that you can empower your employees to be heroes in a way that can compound good within the community and benefit your business impact at the same time. The Society of Human Resources links VTO to positive work culture, higher employee engagement and retention. Coordinating some of these activities for your employees means the value of the volunteer work many of them are already doing can be tied into the work you do as a company and that individuals do in their daily work and through both you and they become known as an even better community partner.

Right now, we are working on ways to share the proposals we can’t immediately address with our business neighbors. This week, I’m asking you to share this email with business leaders whose firms have skills the nonprofit sector can use, including:

  • Strategic planning
  • Event planning or management
  • Human resources
  • Financial and legal
  • Communications and marketing, graphic design
  • Technology/IT
  • Entrepreneurship and leadership coaching

Our team is happy to share more about how we’ve made this process work for us, lessons we’ve learned over the last three years, and project proposals that we are unable to staff. More generally, we’ve encourage all of our business partners to consider volunteering skills as a way to increase nonprofit impact, in addition to the donations we know so many are already making. And as we can partner to support this we encourage you to reach out by contacting me directly (michael.tipton@bcbsla.com) or any member of our team.

– Michael Tipton
BCBSLA Foundation President and Head of Community Relations