More and more companies are launching international corporate volunteering programs. So what do these companies get in return for their investment? What’s it really worth? This is the conclusion a 2-part blog. 

Are there real business drivers in Global Pro Bono?

Laura Blog Photo 2

By Laura Asiala, Senior Director of Client Relations and Public Affairs, PYXERA Global

In part 1 of this discussion I mentioned that when we (PYXERA Global) talk about international corporate volunteerism (ICV) or global pro bono, companies want to know what they will we get for it … “What’s it worth?”, they ask.

Be sure to read part 1 for a description of ICV.

In part 2 of this discussion I’d like to explore two more the outcomes that can result from a successfully implemented international corporate volunteer program. Remember to ask yourself: What else could I implement to get the same results, and how much would that cost?

Last week we noted that the outcomes fall into three categories:

  1. Talent development: Attracting, developing, engaging and retaining talent.
  2. New business: Gaining insights to new products, services, and markets, and introducing brands.
  3. Risk reduction: Preventing crises through deep understanding, stakeholder engagement, strong reputations and creating resilient organizations in times of challenge and change.

New Markets and Products

New business is born from insight

How do you launch a new product or service successfully? How do you enter a brand new market? It begins with insight.

Most large companies spend about 2-6% of their gross revenues on marketing. Approximately 10% of that is generally allocated to market research. Thus, in a firm with revenues of one billion dollars, you would expect marketing expenses to be in the range of $20 million, with a corresponding market research budget of $2 million. For a fraction of the cost, a well-trained pro bono team can gain insights that provide that first step.

And yet, this is only the first step in a long process of successfully developing and launching a new product, new service, and likely a new business model. One thing, however, is certain: without the initial insight, there is no new anything. It’s required to get to “yes”. It’s also required to get to “no”–and anyone with experience in marketing knows the value of getting to a fast “no”. It’s always difficult to quantify the resources you didn’t squander because you were able to make a fast assessment; being able to quickly articulate and test a value proposition has high value. What’s your company’s budget for market research, prototyping, and model development? ICV teams—appropriately trained, strategically aligned and directly linked to the internal process for innovation and new business development start to look like quite a bargain, and an important part of the portfolio.

Beyond insight, ICV teams play an important role in establishing the company’s brand in a new market. Service works amazingly well! It opens doors and sets a welcoming framework. Not only do the projects serve as learning platforms for the companies who send volunteers—the people in the market experience a company’s brand in an authentic and positive way. This spills over to existing markets as well. The good work that IBM does through their Corporate Service Corps is noticed and admired by their existing clients, their prospective clients, and their shareholders.

Consider the resources invested in building attractive brands to these important stakeholders–millions of dollars of investment for multibillion dollar companies. Again, an ICV program–appropriately aligned, engaged to deliver value and communicate impact—is a bargain, and a valuable component of a holistic brand strategy.

It’s about Risk Management

What’s the value of a crisis averted?

What do companies pay to deal with a crisis? What interest might insurance companies have in enabling their corporate clients to proactively prevent crises? What is the value of the benefit of the doubt?

At this point, you probably see the value of ICV programs as part of a proactive strategy for talent development and business growth, but what you might find surprising is how efficient they can be at reducing risk. Again, none of this is considered in isolation. The ICV programs need to be part of an integrated strategy, but they can also prove to be powerful ways to build or improve key stakeholder relationships, gain insight into long, global supply chains, and make deposits into an organization’s “bank” of public trust.

The responsibility of multinational companies to control their supply chains—far beyond their fence lines—grows every year, and the risk of not knowing grows as well. “I didn’t know” is becoming a much less acceptable defense, and has an impact on every aspect of the business—from customers to employees to shareholders. How much do multinational companies spend on ensuring the sustainability of their supply chain, their good reputations, and the avoidance of other risks? Again, we’re talking millions of dollars. The relative cost of an ICV program pales in comparison.

I don’t mean to insinuate that a single team or a single project of international corporate volunteerism answers all of these objectives. But I would strongly assert that an ICV approach always offers multiple returns on a relatively small investment with regards to improving talent, driving new business, and potentially reducing risk. And it does so while offering skills, experience, and capacity to organizations in places of this world who desperately need it, and that’s a whole different kind of return.

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About our guest author

Laura Asiala

Passionate about the power of business to solve-or help solve-the world’s most intransigent problems, she leads the efforts to attract more participation of businesses to contribute to the sustainable development, through their people and their work. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Net Impact. Before PYXERA Global, she was the Director of Corporate Citizenship at Dow Corning Corporation, where she led the development of their international corporate volunteer program (Dow Corning Citizen Service Corps) and oversaw CSR strategies and relationships, including the company’s public-private partnership with the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves.

Laura was also a recent interviewee of our podcast, Realizing Your Worth, which you can listen to here.

Some ways we can help

If you’d like our help with your employee volunteering or workplace giving program, please feel free to drop us a line at or call us at 855-926-4678. You can also take a look at some of the services we offer.

And be sure to check out our newest offering, Cohort Consulting. Not only will you receive all of the services we provide for Fortune 500 companies, but each month you’ll collaborate with others in your field to discuss best practices, address challenges, and receive tools for running a great program.

Click here for more details about Cohort Consulting.

Photo via Captions of Christy


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