Lincoln-based software investment fund Nebraska Global is among some 50 companies receiving recognition today in Washington, D.C. for its role in A Billion + Change, a national campaign to mobilize skills-based and pro bono volunteer services to help build the capacity of nonprofit organizations to effectively meet community needs.
Nonprofit, business and government leaders are gathered on Capitol Hill to celebrate companies from across the country that have combined to pledge more than $1 billion in service work to nonprofits. Those congregated in Washington are also spearheading the effort to have other companies join the campaign by starting or expanding their own skills-based volunteer programs.
Amanda Garner, director of community and public affairs for Nebraska Global, says the company has made skill-based nonprofit work a priority since it was established last year. Nebraska Global, whose nonprofit partners include the Teammates Mentoring Program, the Lincoln/Lancaster County Child Advocacy Center, the Boys & Girls Club of Lincoln and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Raikes School, estimates it has accounted for more than 4,500 volunteer hours since May of 2010.
The emphasis on skills-based service was born, in part, out of managing principal Steve Kiene
's belief that donating money alone isn't the best way for businesses to serve the community. Kiene said he hopes area startups will see things the same way.
"Quite frankly, a startup shouldn’t be focused on giving money to nonprofits; it needs money to run. But there’s no reason it can't give of its time," Kiene (left, photo from nebraskaglobal.com)
said by phone today from Washington. "That's a real shift that I think we need to see, and I think that’s what this Billion + Change is all about. It's about getting companies large and small to realize that helping in their communities isn’t just about getting money but that giving time can be far more impactful."
The Billion + Change's pledge companies — the majority of which signed on during a “50 Companies in 50 Days” pledge campaign launched in September — range in size from small businesses with fewer than 10 employees to large corporations like Deloitte, HP, IBM, GE and State Farm. Together, these companies have pledged to provide 9.5 million hours of employee time and talent to nonprofits by the end of 2013.
Nebraska Global is one of the smaller companies in attendance today, but Kiene and Garner say they hope it can help catalyze big change in Nebraska. Apparently, Nebraska Global's slogan of "develop here," applies to community involvement as much as it does to software and spinoffs.
"I look at it and say, 'We’ll do our part. We’ll try to get 100 companies in Nebraska to do it,' " Kiene said of recruiting other companies to A Billion + Change. "I hope, just like we try to put Nebraska on the map from the standpoint of how many companies are working with Startup America, things like that … I want to see us put Nebraska on the map and say, 'Look at how many companies signed up for this pledge. Look at how many dollars were committed by Nebraska.' "
Added Garner: "We do really want to see this catch on and have other people do it. If we were all doing it, and every non profit in the state of Nebraska … was receiving skills-based service from skilled technology people, that would be a really awesome thing."
More on A Billion + Change
Launched in 2008 by the Corporation for National and Community Service
, the campaign continues today as an initiative of the federal agency. It was reinvigorated earlier this year with expanded leadership under the honorary chairmanship of Senator Mark Warner. It's now managed by the Points of Light Institute
and backed by partners that include HP, the Case Foundation and IBM.
“We have been overwhelmed by the initial enthusiasm for A Billion + Change," said Michelle Nunn, CEO of the Points of Light Institute. "Volunteers nationwide served 8.1 billion hours in 2010, yet only around 16 percent of all companies make it a regular practice to offer their employees skills-based volunteer opportunities. Skills-based volunteerism helps companies build the human capital of their workforce and invest in their communities.”