SkillShare Nonprofit Partner Frequently Asked Questions
Through SkillShare, your organization can harness the thoughts, energy, and time of a team of corporate volunteers to achieve a task that is important, but something you haven’t been able to dedicate staff time toward. Your nonprofit will work with a team of 3 to 4 employees that will assist in designing a solution to a management or technical challenge. The team will receive a half-day training about the nonprofit sector and ways to connect as a consultant and short-term volunteer. Each team will develop under the guidance of a project advisor, an experienced Executive Service Corps consultant trained and managed by CCCE. The teams will be matched with your nonprofit, based on their skill set and your need. Each team will have at least one more experienced employee, in addition to the project advisor.
Why are companies participating in SkillShare?
Companies have long been committed to supporting the community. Giving back through service is one additional way to add value in the community. Previous experience has proven that employees that are engaged in their community are more engaged at work. It is also an opportunity for their employees to develop competencies and leadership skills as well as the joy of giving back. The program builds teamwork and breaks down silos. It is also a positive marketing opportunity for the company.
The team has many reasons for being engaged: their desire to give back, their interest in nonprofits, and the learning opportunity to build and use their skills. Companies generally have given them work release time (at least 16 hours) for the project.
What will my nonprofit gain?
Past participants have reported benefits like:
- Improvement in a management or technical area – nonprofits lack the human resources (either time or expertise) to tackle some of the projects that a team can get done
- The teams provide a new perspective -“a laser focus on an area we needed to improve”
- Engagement with a corporation – the volunteers could become ambassadors for you and expand your reach into new audiences, and the company becomes a partner for you in a more meaningful way
What kinds of projects work best?
The best projects use skill sets that nonprofits have in common with corporate environments: (i.e. not fundraising planning). They tend to be projects that give you the data, analysis, processing, or business lens that you need. They often assist management or board to make more informed decisions, like:
- Financial analysis (reporting and controls, cash flow)
- Operations (inventory, purchasing, quality improvement)
- Facilities analysis (cost savings, planning)
- Business planning and goal setting
- Information and technology
- Marketing and communications
These are projects that use professional skills; not “extra-hands,” clerical, or unskilled labor. They also tend to be analytical and technical and do not implement a program (i.e. not graphic design of a brochure or development of a marketing video).
Visit our project examples page for more ideas on potential scopes of work.
What support will my nonprofit receive during the project?
SkillShare is a program of the Covestro Center for Community Engagement (CCCE) at Robert Morris University. Each nonprofit partner will have a project advisor who is a trained, experienced nonprofit consultant (and an Executive Service Corps member). We will work to ensure that the project is scoped well. Once the team has been assigned, we will work with you to refine the project again based on the team skill set. The project advisor can help troubleshoot and help translate needs between the “sectors;” they will also help to ensure quality in the program.
You can contact your project advisor during the project to discuss changes or difficulties.
What does my organization commit to during SkillShare?
You will need to commit to supporting and engaging your team over a 12 to 15-week period of time. They will need you to:
- Assign one primary contact and a secondary contact to guide the team
- Provide clarity around deliverables and timelines, which will be typed up into a project agreement and signed by you
- Provide access to documents and any other relevant information; be sure to check for data clearances before the project begins
- Commit to complete the project even if there are staffing changes; your project scope can be adjusted if needed
- Attend a program launch to meet the team and a final program/celebration
- 3 to 4 face-to-face meetings, including an initial on-site meeting at the nonprofit, to help give the team a better understanding of your work and context for the project
- Phone calls every other week, which are a minimum requirement for good project flow
- Complete a project evaluation
How do I participate?
Contact Yvonne Van Haitsma, Associate Director, with any additional questions you might have. Then complete our request for participation survey. We’ll be in touch with you after we receive your survey. It’s that simple!
Are there any tips to completing a successful project?
There are! We’ve found a few key points help keep teams working effectively and productively together:
- Remember that you will be working with volunteers. Many are millennials. Some are seasoned professionals. Either way, they need a little encouragement and praise. At the end, find a way to thank them.
- Set out a timeline and regular meetings or touch points, both in person and by phone
- Clarify communication paths from the start
- Communicate if it isn’t going well. And if it is going well. In other words, communicate!