I recently had the privilege of volunteering along with the employees of our client, Samuel Adams, at their “Speed Coaching” event. Speed Coaching is an integral part of Samuel Adams Brewing the American Dream, the company’s signature philanthropy program that helps lower-income food and beverage microentrepreneurs build and strengthen their small businesses, realize their dreams, and achieve economic independence. The program offers microloans, and other hard-to-come-by resources, through the Samuel Adams Microloan Fund with nonprofit partner ACCION USA.

Speed Coaching is cool! Building off the idea of Speed Dating (which I’ve only heard about, never experienced) Boston Beer staff, and other volunteers, meet with microentrepreneurs in short, spirited sessions offering their expertise in package design, branding, PR, finance, legal, sales and distribution, and marketing to entrepreneurs who often lack access to networks and mentors who can help them with these aspects of running a small business. Entrepreneurs spend the evening rotating through the discipline specific stations for 20 minutes each – getting practical tips, directional advice and ideas. Some entrepreneurs brought their food, others brought logos and package concepts, yet others came with a specific business problem they needed help solving.

Participating in Speed Coaching event as a Marketing coach, I can say firsthand it was a high-impact experience for the coaches and entrepreneurs alike. One of the most significant take-aways for me was the profound impact my professional expertise can have in helping sustain another’s business over the long term.

With “traditional” volunteerism well established, more and more companies, like Samuel Adams, are moving toward the increasingly strategic “skills based volunteerism.” When volunteers with specific needed skill sets bring those much needed skills to a nonprofit, it increases the capacity of that nonprofit to meet its mission in a sustainable way. Many companies are lending employee volunteers with skills in marketing, IT, Human Resources and other vital disciplines to nonprofits that are lacking these skills. In the case of Speed Coaching, we brought skills directly to those who benefit from the program, but the power of that transfer of skills was the same.

The current economic climate and decreased philanthropy budgets require companies and nonprofits to think about corporate giving in new ways. Human capital should be an important part of the equation and the unique skills of your employees can add enormous, sustainable value for nonprofits.

We believe the evolution toward Skills-Based Volunteerism will continue and look forward to seeing more and more companies strategically use employees’ core skills to build the capacity of nonprofits. Much like the early days of corporate volunteerism when success stories, best practices, and pitfalls to avoid were actively shared across networks, we hope that companies and nonprofits will continue to help build this new wave of corporate volunteerism by sharing as they go. Experts Theresa Ellis, Founder of Common Impact, the nonprofit skills based volunteerism consultancy, and Bev Dribin, VP of Community Relations at ARAMARK, will do just that at the upcoming Cause Marketing Forum Conference in Chicago – a great event itself!  On May 27th, during a panel facilitated by our own Mark Feldman, they’ll explore be the value of skills-based volunteerism and what it takes to develop an initiative with real impact.


Are you having success or challenges with your own Skills-Based Volunteer program?

How are you leveraging your employees’ unique skills to build the capacity of our country’s nonprofits?

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