As nonprofit organizations continue their work amid the pandemic, often facing limited resources and increased needs from the communities they serve, NBCUniversal recognized an opportunity to connect organizations with skilled employee volunteers who could lend their professional expertise.
This summer, NBCU's volunteering and social impact initiative NBCUnites and premier talent development program the Talent Lab expanded its existing series of employee service learning opportunities into a new month-long Pro Bono experience to develop inclusive leaders across a wide range of business areas as they utilized their skills outside the company to assist organizations in need of their professional skillset.
Through Pro Bono, 48 NBCUniversal employees consulted with 13 mission-driven nonprofit organizations who sought guidance on a strategic project and worked in groups to provide a solution. The participating cohort represented HR, Legal, and Marketing/Communications professionals across 11 business areas and together contributed an incredible 1,100 hours of skills-based service.
This experience was conducted in partnership with PYXERA Global, a nonprofit that facilitates mutually beneficial partnerships between the private sector and nonprofit organizations to help employees leverage their consulting and inclusive leadership skills to solve complex social challenges.
“Through the Talent Lab’s Pro Bono experience, NBCU employees explored how fundamental empathy is to creating solutions that deeply impact nonprofit organizations and the people they serve,” said Nicholas Gioioso, Key Client Manager, PYXERA Global. “The NBCU team members approached their projects with real gusto and collaborated with their partner organization to tailor deliverables that addressed the vital need behind their programming.”
Held virtually, the experience kicked off with a series of labs that empowered participants to hone empathetic listening abilities, leverage essential career skills, understand the nonprofit administration perspective, and connect with colleagues from across the US and London. Nonprofit Narrative 4 led the employees in their signature Story Exchange program, a conversation model grounded in active listening and making connections through empathy.
“A highlight of this experience was working with two colleagues – one of whom was based in London – to accomplish this project together,” said Kara Paldino, VP, Marketing & Creative Partnerships Legal. “Although we are all part of the NBCUniversal Law Department, we are part of different business units and wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to work closely together. It was great to collaborate with them and leverage our various skills to support nonprofit organizations that need our help.”
Throughout the four weeks, employees collaborated on a variety of projects for the organizations including developing comprehensive marketing toolkits to increase brand awareness; creating HR handbooks and leadership development guides to attract, retain, and educate employees; and securing the organizations’ intellectual property to allow for widespread promotion of their work and events.
“This was the first time that I had the opportunity to work with and understand the non-profit experience,” said Brian Potter, Sr. Director of Communications, NBCUniversal Local. “At the beginning of this program, I was unsure how I was personally going to be able to make a difference and help in a meaningful way. However, by the end of the experience I felt very positive about what my partner and I were able to accomplish with the organization.”
Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that builds parks to create healthy, livable communities, sought NBCU employees’ guidance on a dynamic marketing and communications plan, which is especially pertinent as the pandemic has highlighted the need for quality outdoor space close to home.
“We were excited to tap into the diverse and deep range of expertise at NBCU to help us strengthen brand awareness and amplify our work in New York,” said Elizabeth Sell, Associate Director, Field Marketing and Partnerships, Trust for Public Land. “Our NBCU employee partners, Emma, Jenna, and Maria were savvy and thoughtful, and they took the time to understand our organization and where we were starting from. They provided actionable feedback including out of the box tactics and new creative marketing ideas to help us develop our existing foundational work. We’re so appreciative of the team’s support and look forward to continuing to implement their insights.”
Not only did Pro Bono help the nonprofits with their targeted needs, but employees were able to utilize the experience as a mechanism for development as leaders. They gained an understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing nonprofits and how they can help them continue to serve their communities by using their existing skills in a different way. They also had the opportunity to practice empathetic listening and problem solving introduced in the opening labs and reflected on how to bring these practices back to their team leadership on the job.
“Empathy is a muscle that we constantly have to exercise,” said Tasha Pearce, VP of HR Shared Services, HR Connection. “Hearing from people from different backgrounds was a great lesson in how to listen with our ears, eyes, and heart open. The feeling you get from volunteering is contagious, and I appreciate that our company allows employees to dedicate time to participating in these opportunities.”
Learn more about PYXERA Global HERE.
Learn more about Narrative 4 HERE.