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2. April 2015

Sourcing Talent: Skills-Based Volunteers and Executive Advising

by Deborah Dellinger, Director, Not-For-Profit Operations, My Next Season

A notable trend is afoot in the not-for-profit world: skills-based volunteering. While I’ve known about the trend for a while, it caught my attention again when I recently attended the well-thought-out and well-executed Social Capital 2015 conference held in Alexandria, Virginia in February. Experts from corporate foundations and leaders from a wide variety of not-for-profits were present as well as the articulate, informed, and able Paula Berezin and her colleagues from Social Capital Partnerships. Among the many topics of discussion, skills-based volunteering stood out.

For those of you who are less familiar with this trend, skills-based volunteering (SBV) matches individuals who possess certain skills, experience, and talents with not-for-profits which have identified a need for those specific abilities. Many of these match-making forums are online; some match as a service and some charge the not-for-profit when a match is made or a project completed. This arrangement is a win-win for both parties. A graphic designer, electrician, grant writer, or network specialist can use his or her specific and valuable skills to increase capacity for a not-for-profit while feeling personally fulfilled and bolstering professional experience. Corporations participate in SBV through self-structured programs, which deploy groups of employees on projects for a not-for-profit that may include a day of service or an extended project done over a period of time with a set deliverable.

My Next Season incorporates a hybrid of this volunteerism into its business model. While our business focuses on supporting executives transitioning from corporate roles to retirement, we organically embrace giving back and serving others as part of a productive and fulfilling next season. We occupy a specific niche on the continuum of skills-based volunteering connoted by executives with skill sets acquired through corporate leadership in high risk/high reward roles. We bring current executive leadership skills to bear on important issues in the not-for-profit sector so that the executive finds fulfillment while transitioning, and the not-for-profit receives the best of the corporate sector’s talent and experience. We call it executive advising.

Our clients are corporate executives with a wealth of talents, traits, and experience. Many times, these executives are transitioning earlier than they had anticipated, with their cutting edge management skills, domain expertise, and high energy intact and ready for more challenges. They are smart, creative, and visionary. Each is hardworking and possesses wisdom and spheres of influence gained over years of corporate leadership in roles that required savvy and intellect. They are adroit at solving big problems and have been tasked to lead large groups of professionals with diverse interests to address the big issues in their companies while complying with other constituencies.

As part of our advising work with corporations and executives, we seek to deploy the talents, domain expertise, wisdom, passion, and energy of our clients into the not-for-profit sector. Approximately half of our clients express a desire to give back as part of their transition to retirement. Our strategy is a win-win for our clients and our not-for-profit partner who welcome our executive advising. Some may call it mentoring, strategic planning, executive coaching, growth strategy, board recruitment, communications, and marketing planning. We call it executive advising.

It is in the DNA of our company to build relationships with corporations, clients, and not-for-profits. As the Director of Not-for-Profit Operations for My Next Season, I have the privilege of creating the strategies to fulfill the needs of our not-for-profit partners including identifying the specific project or mentoring needs each organization has. In parallel, I work with our My Next Season team internally to stay informed of the array of executives and their leadership skills that comprise our clients at any given time, so that a connection may be made between our client and a not-for-profit partner. An excellent example of the transformative power of leadership advising can be read about in a previous blog on this site dated February 23, 2015 and written by Linda Novick O’Keefe, CEO and founder of Common Threads.

My Next Season is driven by passion; our brains hum with possibilities that make our hearts sing. We give 20% of our revenue back to the not-for-profit sector. We talk about being an engine for good and advancing service opportunities. We care about community and realize that our corporate clients and executives do as well. We are a high touch company with high capacity clients. We claim a place within the trend of skills-based volunteering. Through our executive advising, we provide an avenue through which executives can use hard-earned experience to solve problems and increase capacity for a wide range of not-for-profits. I’m humming already…..

With over twenty years of experience leading and serving not-for-profit organizations internationally, Debbie Dellinger now oversees My Next Season’s philanthropic partnerships. Debbie connects experienced executives with vital not-for-profit causes as a part of the executive’s transition from a corporate career ordered around productivity to a next season anchored in purpose.

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