Why We All Should Embrace Pro Bono
A former senior manager in PwC’s Assurance practice, Maryann Holsberg has leveraged her client service experience and 20-year tenure with the firm in various internal roles, including Alumni Relations, Communications and for the past four years, as a Director on PwC’s US Corporate Responsibility (CR) team. Her responsibilities include the firm’s US CR reporting, pro bono programs and other stakeholder engagement efforts.
Pro bono at PwC. Who would have thought an organization focused on being the best professional services firm at all levels would want to donate our services, our skills and our people? For so many years, it was common practice to write a check or paint a fence, acknowledging that we may never really know or be able to measure the true impact that gift had on the nonprofit organization or those they serve. Wasn’t that enough?
Let’s face facts. It’s much more rewarding to share your skills – to volunteer for projects that will benefit from your specific talents or professional abilities. It provides you with an opportunity to hone marketable skills and deliver impact in a meaningful way. Those who volunteer their skills tend to feel a greater sense of accomplishment, and perhaps as importantly – gratitude – from the pro bono client, an aspect of work that is sometimes missing in other regulated or statutory work that tends to monopolize our days. Additionally, the pro bono experience inevitably creates in volunteers an insatiable hunger to do it again, often making the most challenging part of managing a pro bono program in a corporate environment knowing “when to say when.”
But giving back to our communities in this way does pay its own dividends.
First and foremost, professionals are seeking employers that offer pro bono opportunities – not just once in a while – but pretty much at the employee’s discretion. Secondly, the leadership development skills our people are able to develop through pro bono experiences are beyond what a management course can teach. So if retention and employee development are not sufficient reason to support a pro bono program, what is?
For us, the value proposition was too obvious to ignore. But with over 38,000 partners and staff, we knew our solution had to be about providing a menu of options to engage people at all levels and varying degrees of commitment. One size does not fit all – for the individual, or for the organization. At PwC, our spectrum of opportunities and organizations that we seek to serve are vast – whether that be as singular as a board seat opportunity, to discrete ‘tasks’ needed of a smaller non profit, to a full-service engagement encompassing a team that delivers a pre-defined service offering.
Initially, I thought seeking to formalize our pro bono program would be an uncomfortable concept to “sell” to the firm. On the contrary, PwC has embraced the newly expanded program and the opportunities it provides our people and the impact we can have by sharing our skills on a pro bono basis to a wide variety of nonprofit organizations. I’m now of the belief that we should follow in the footsteps of our law firm counterparts and make pro bono a required part of our licensure. It is the purest form of a public/private partnership and has survived economic booms and disasters alike. Let’s eliminate the question of why, and instead ask how and when?