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Offering Nonprofits Short-Term HR Help

This article accompanies Virtual Volunteering

Monday, October 1, 2012
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Many nonprofits are significantly under-resourced when it comes to human resource staffing and expertise. And while many time-squeezed human resource professionals are hard-pressed to work on nonprofits' long-term HR projects, they can often spare an hour or two for community service.

The result: HR Pro Bono Corps, a program developed by the Cornerstone OnDemand Foundation offering HR assistance to nonprofits. The majority of guidance is short-term, from one to three hours, and almost always provided by human resource professionals via phone, says Alexis Denny, the foundation's director of partnerships and programs.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based foundation launched the Corps in 2010 to recruit and match HR professionals' skills and interests with the needs of nonprofits. It serves as facilitator, introducing the two parties for further discussion of an impending project.

"We've seen incredible success and transformative projects [that HR professionals completed] as a result of the Pro Bono Corps," says Denny. "Most nonprofits fully recognize they have a need for this type of service, but don't have the means to pay for it."

As of early August, 75 HR professionals were signed up and 35 nonprofits were assisted. They've worked on a wide variety of short-term projects, coaching nonprofits on everything from retention and performance management to communication strategies and succession planning.

Many HR professionals view the volunteerism as a chance to combine a skills-enhancement opportunity with doing good, says Denny.

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"Volunteering is great," she says, "but most people don't get to use their professional expertise in a meaningful way and, at the same time, feel good about helping a nonprofit."

Meanwhile, Denny says, companies also often benefit from their HR professionals' volunteerism. Sometimes, she says, members from a company's human resource department work together on a project, creating opportunities for team building and for junior-level professionals to learn from veterans. Sometimes, HR professionals from different companies collaborate, providing other learning opportunities.

"Often," says Denny, "that experience encourages HR volunteers to re-examine the ways they've been doing things at their own company."

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