Closing the Expertise Gap with Skills-Based Volunteering

Through skills-based volunteering programs, Taproot Foundation and RBC Foundation USA are helping nonprofits obtain expertise and talent to solve critical strategic challenges.

Published January 19, 2024 | 3 min read

Key Points

  • Taproot Foundation uses skills-based volunteering to match the needs of resource-strapped nonprofits with the professional skills of corporate volunteers.
  • RBC Foundation USA partnered with Taproot to host a Skills-Based Volunteering Marathon to tackle the challenges faced by six nonprofits.
  • The intensive collaboration helped build actionable solutions for our partners and gave RBC Capital Markets volunteers a chance to share their skills with causes they care about.

Nonprofits have no trouble developing innovative initiatives to move their missions forward. However, financial constraints often make it difficult to access resources and specialized expertise needed to execute their plans effectively.

To address this gap, Taproot Foundation uses skills-based volunteering programs that match the needs of nonprofits with the professional skills of corporate volunteers. In collaboration with Taproot, the RBC Foundation USA organized a Skills-Based Volunteering Marathon to tackle the challenges faced by six nonprofits. Volunteers from RBC Capital Markets worked with these organizations to develop a range of strategic solutions, from data management roadmaps to KPI development.

Fiver logo

Data Analysis

Raritan Headwaters logo

Data Migration Checklist

All-Stars Project logo

Data Management Roadmap

Crisis Text Line logo

Pricing Strategy Framework

DreamYard logo

Pitch Strategy

Neda Feeding hope logo

KPI Development & Strategy

The successful collaboration not only helped the nonprofits advance their missions, but also provided participants with an opportunity to give back to their communities and share their skills with causes they care about.

“When multiple constituents come together to work on a shared purpose to solve a problem that nonprofit partners can’t solve on their own, there is a connection, a cooperation, a learning of new things – and that creates magic.”

Season Eckardt, Director, Taproot Foundation

DreamYard taps RBC talent to build a new pitch strategy

By design, skills-based volunteering marathons facilitate powerful collaboration, creativity, and impact.

Taproot programs begin by identifying nonprofits with practical challenges and clear goals. For example, the DreamYard Project, an RBC Foundation USA partner since 2017, required a business strategy to attract investors to unlock a new funding stream for their work.  

Taproot helped RBC mobilize a team of employee volunteers with expertise in sales, business development and pitch strategy. The two parties aligned and embarked on a discovery, research, and review process prior to the Marathon.

The Marathon itself is an intensive onsite collaboration session. The volunteer team applied their industry knowledge to build a pitch strategy and messaging framework, and DreamYard’s Co-Executive Director, Jason Duchin, provided real-time feedback and guidance throughout the process.

In the final phase of the Marathon, the volunteer group developed an implementation plan and reflected on the process. The output was meaningful and measurable: DreamYard now has a strategy to partner with investors and ensure financial stability.

“You go from thinking and brainstorming about a project to jumping into a highly focused experience that gives you a clear solution and the next steps you need to take. You structure your thoughts a different way when you have an outside partner.”

Jason Duchin, Co-Executive Director, DreamYard

Crisis Text Line opens doors to new funding opportunities

Crisis Text Line is a global organization that offers free mental health texting services to individuals in distress. To sustain its free service and explore new funding opportunities, the nonprofit recognized the need to enhance the value of its corporate partnerships.

Tiago Saito, Vice President, Consumer & Retail Investment Banking, led the team of RBC volunteers with expertise in financial forecasting, business development and research analysis.

The team applied their skills to help the nonprofit evaluate its program prices, conduct a market analysis, and develop a new pricing strategy and sell sheet for its partnership programs. The deliverables will enable Crisis Text Line to optimize its pricing structure, access new funding opportunities and ultimately serve more people in need.

“Investment banking propelled my career and opened new doors. Now it’s a matter of giving back to others who do not have access to the same privileges I did.”

Tiago Saito, Consumer & Retail Investment Banking, RBC Capital Markets

NEDA finds the right KPIs to grow and scale

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is the largest nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. NEDA faced the challenge of maximizing the impact of a new campus-based educational outreach and fundraising program on a nationwide scale. However, they lacked the expertise to develop an efficient method for collecting and evaluating performance data.

The volunteer team leveraged its data collection and analysis skills to help NEDA achieve this quantifiable reach. The team provided recommendations on tools and processes to capture and manage data, and helped NEDA develop KPIs aligned with its goals and data capture mechanisms.

The project results will help NEDA evaluate its program effectiveness and outcomes, improve communication with volunteers, and increase funding for the program.

“It was a matter of feeling useful and being able to put the skills that we have to good use in a different way,” said RBC volunteer Fatima Aissaoui, Managing Director, Head Global Equities Business Manager. “It's really interesting to learn something new, and the experience motivated me to think about how I could participate more actively in my community.”

“We were able to accomplish six months of impact design and program design in six hours, thanks to quality volunteers who were open to learning quickly, delving deeply, and working efficiently.”

Jessica Scheer, Chief Operating Officer, NEDA

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