By Leila Freedman, Senior Director of Development, Strategic Partnerships at Pro Mujer*
On September 17th, Pro Mujer participated in a Pro Bono Challenge hosted by MasterCard Worldwide and organized by Taproot Foundation. When we first were invited, we were intrigued by the concept. For us, the real issue is how do you make pro bono work? How do you get valuable technical expertise through employee engagement that will have impact on an organization that has its operations abroad and not in the U.S.? Pro Mujer is a social enterprise that provides poor women in Latin America with the means to build livelihoods for themselves and futures for their families through microfinance, business training and health care support. We provide direct services to 277,000 poor women throughout Argentina, Bolivia, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru at our 164 branches staffed by more than 2,000 employees.
How can MasterCard deepen social impact in Latin America not only with funds but with pro bono service? The answer is a Pro Bono Challenge that sets a clear goal within a specific timeframe to invest in capacity-building that otherwise the nonprofit would not be able to do with its own talent and resources.
Pro Mujer strongly believes that public-private partnerships are a creative mechanism for addressing challenges and leveraging the skills and resources of the business sector and the work that we do. Economic and social issues effecting the local and global communities continue to grow and no single actor can address them without working with other organizations.
As a corporate partner, MasterCard invested not only philanthropic resources but human resources, which made it a win-win for both partners. In order to do that, we went through a process that truly tailored a scope of work starting with an in-depth understanding of the nonprofit’s need. For the Pro Bono Challenge, Pro Mujer presented a very technical issue: exploring the migration to a new core banking system that will allow the organization to scale business and position ourselves for growth. How do you do that in one day? You get a group of talented professionals both on the nonprofit side with the program staff that works on day to day operations and the experts on the corporate partner side that has skills that can help address the issue all in one day.
What we learned is that pro bono works! The key to success is in following a few simple rules:
- Supply and Demand – The first step is listening to the client’s needs. Pro Mujer knew that in order to reach scale we need to migrate to a new core banking system; therefore, the challenge presented at the Pro Bono Challenge was demand driven not supply driven. In previous pro bono work, corporations would supply a group of employees interested in supporting Pro Mujer and then we had to look for a project that they could work on. Being a nonprofit with limited resources and staff it can be draining to accommodate employee engagement if it is not done purposefully.
- Find the Right Match – Pro Mujer identified the project “migration to a new core banking system”. Then, Taproot, along with MasterCard’s HR, found the employees that had the set of skills we needed to address this challenge. With our Taproot adviser we conducted a streamlined assessment of what skills would be necessary. They included: technology, back office, systems, sales and language skills (Spanish). The MasterCard employees and Pro Mujer staff were selected accordingly, which set up the group to succeed.
- Clear Deliverables – Pro Bono MasterCard employees worked hand-in-hand with Pro Mujer to develop a final deliverable that we could use to deepen organizational capacity and performance. We now have a roadmap to migrate to a new system – starting from a business case, to the selection process, and finally decision and implementation of the new core banking system.
- End Result is Social Impact – After one day and pro bono support from a selective group of talented professionals we are set for success and the most important outcome: social impact. Our challenge is to identify a system capable of producing accurate, timely, and comprehensive information on operations, especially on the loan portfolio, that will strengthen our financial performance and expand our client reach. The new system will facilitate growth, improve the timeliness and quality of data, and reduce costs so that Pro Mujer can improve service to poor women in Latin America by better understanding their needs and helping them break the cycle of poverty.
*Leila Freedman is Senior Director of Development, Strategic Partnerships at Pro Mujer. Pro Mujer provides poor women in Latin America with the means to build livelihoods for themselves and futures for their families through microfinance, business training and health care support.