Skills-Based Volunteerism: A Learning Community

This April, CVC-TC members met to discuss and learn about skills-based volunteerism. Skills-based volunteerism – leveraging specialized skills of volunteers to strengthen nonprofit infrastructure – is a growing trend in corporate social responsibility and employee volunteerism, and a model that many CVC-TC member organizations are exploring. Corporate and nonprofit leaders came together to share their experiences with and lessons learned from implementing skills-based volunteering programs.

To dig into the topic, Tracy Nielsen of HandsOn Twin Cities led a panel discussion featuring Minn Wang from General Mills, Kelly Quicksell from Prepare + Prosper, and Traci Norum from Land O’Lakes.

Implementing Skills-Based Volunteer Programs

Skills-based volunteerism can offer significant benefits to both nonprofits and companies. Nonprofits are able to leverage volunteer skills to expand their reach, build capacity, and become more sustainable. Companies can use skills-based employee volunteer opportunities to develop employees’ business skills, cultivate a positive company culture, and make critical business connections.  

The process of implementing skills-based volunteer programs is not without challenges, however. Nonprofits may have a difficult time helping volunteers see the wide range of specialized skills that could benefit their organization. For example, though Prepare + Prosper is focused on financial wellness, they needed to find volunteers with experience in customer service to help redesign their client intake process. Corporate volunteer program leaders may struggle to convince employees that the skills they use daily at work can be highly valuable for nonprofits – both Minn and Traci described employee volunteers who weren’t confident that they were enough of an “expert” to be helpful. Corporate volunteer coordinators also need to carefully set expectations with employee volunteers – skills-based volunteering can have huge returns on investment, but employees will need to do their homework and be willing to commit to the work.

Skills Based Challenge Model

Tracy and HandsOn Twin Cities have been working with nonprofits and corporate partners to help facilitate skills-based volunteerism through their “skills-based challenge model.” At their skills-based challenge events, HandsOn has brought together employee volunteers and multiple nonprofits to focus on issues including marketing, fundraising, operations, IT, and beyond. Employees opt in to a project based on their skills and interest, and spend several hours working with the nonprofit to develop and design potential solutions. The first few skills-based challenge events have been very successful, with both employee volunteers and nonprofits seeing a clear value.

Skills-based volunteerism is an exciting new way to engage corporate volunteers in giving back. By coming together, both companies and nonprofits will continue to learn how to most effectively leverage skilled volunteers to impact the community.

Learn more about the resources the Corporate Volunteerism Council – Twin Cities has to help strengthen corporate volunteering programs by visiting

Anna Bosak - Community Affairs Specialist, H.B. Fuller