Leveraging Skills-Based Volunteering: Enhancing Recruitment, Retention, and Growth

In this episode, we delve into the reasons why skills-based volunteering stands out as a highly effective way to do good, and why it’s beneficial for businesses to leverage their employees’ expertise for positive impact. We also provide actionable insights on implementing a needs-focused strategy that ensures mutual benefits for the company, the nonprofit organization, and the employee who's sharing their skills. 


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Unlocking employee skills to drive social impact

Employees are a company’s greatest asset. But how often do we truly unlock their full potential to create positive change that can also be an asset to our communities? Skills-based volunteering provides a powerful way to leverage employee talents while making a meaningful difference for nonprofit partners.

As Clément Douault, Associate Director of People, Giving, and Volunteering at Novartis shared on this episode of The Social Impact Show, skills-based volunteering has become a cornerstone of the pharmaceutical giant’s social impact strategy. By tapping into employees’ professional expertise from communications to strategy to marketing and more the company can provide critical capacity building support that nonprofit partners desperately need.

A needs-based and partner-led approach

The key, Clément emphasizes, is putting the nonprofit partner first. “We listen to civic society, nonprofit causes, charities whatever type of organization they are,” he explains. Novartis focuses intently on understanding each partner’s unique challenges, then identifies opportunities for employees to share relevant skills.

Rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, the company allows the partner’s needs to shape the specifics of each engagement, from relatively simple mentoring relationships to more complex strategic planning and capacity building projects. This flexibility and commitment to co-creation allows for meaningful, customized support.

Achieving a triple win

When done right, skills-based volunteering creates shared value for nonprofits, volunteers and the business itself. As Clément puts it, “There is a triple win.”

  1. For nonprofits, it provides access to specialized expertise they couldn’t otherwise afford, ultimately helping them further their mission.
  2. For employee volunteers, it’s a chance to use their talents in a purposeful way while developing new skills. Clément gives an example of Novartis communications specialists who provided communications strategy support for a small NGO’s five-year strategic plan. This high-level strategic work stretched them beyond their day-to-day roles.
  3. For companies, skills-based volunteering boosts employee engagement, helps attract and retain top talent, and builds strategic community relationships.

Starting small to build momentum

For companies just getting started with skills-based volunteering, Clément suggests leveraging existing nonprofit relationships to pilot simple mentoring projects. This allows both sides to get comfortable while creating an early success story to build momentum.

“By starting small and in a safe environment,” he concludes, “you will quickly see the value and the return.”

What skills might your employees share to help community organizations advance their missions? The potential for impact is vast. As Clément says, “Go for it!”