This article was originally published on The Business Times.


THERE is a limit to one's capabilities to doing good when going it alone. However, today's interconnected world has made it possible for companies to enhance their individual capacities for making a positive impact by teaming up with like-minded partners.

That is what the three winners of this year's President's Volunteerism & Philanthropy Awards (PVPA) - City of Good category have achieved with the Pro Bono School initiative, a programme developed by Empact in partnership with Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Credit Suisse.

The awards - presented by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) with support from the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) - set out to spotlight individuals and organisations that have galvanised others to do good with them.

In Empact founder and chief executive officer Peter Yang's view, "every organisation should fundamentally exist to do good".

Organisations are "set up to serve", he said, and thus the Pro Bono School was created. It is an initiative aimed at making capability building and skills development affordable and accessible to non-profit organisations and social enterprises.

The programme matches skilled corporate volunteers with social sector leaders for the transfer of skills and knowledge. This is done through one-to-many training sessions as well as one-to-one consultations.

A variety of core and intermediate modules are offered, covering topics such as finance, social media marketing and digital transformation.

Since the Pro Bono School's inception in 2016, a total of 1,289 social sector leaders from 413 social organisations have participated in over 37 sessions, said Yang.

For corporate partners P&G and Credit Suisse, he added, the school is an avenue to engage their employees in meaningful skills-based volunteerism and further their corporate social responsibility goals.

He shared that 94 per cent of Pro Bono School volunteers reported an increased sense of responsibility towards their community, while all volunteers found the experience meaningful and satisfying.

Cecilia Tan, P&G's vice-president of global government relations and public policy, Asia-Pacific, Middle East and Africa, said: "The programmes foster a sense of belonging, strength, unity and resilience among communities in Singapore.

"They also sharpen our sense of purpose and bring us closer together as a society."

The consumer goods firm's Pro Bono School programme has seen volunteer efforts from over 380 employees, she added.

In its corporate giving efforts, Credit Suisse Singapore's head of corporate citizenship and foundations Asia-Pacific, Liza Green, highlighted a focus on financial inclusion, financial education and future skills.

"By working with partner organisations, providing funding and sharing our professional expertise, we strive to shape a more inclusive future where more people can access the resources and develop the necessary skills to thrive," said Green.

To date, more than 150 employees across Credit Suisse's Asia-Pacific offices have volunteered their time to this programme, she noted.

"Through our meaningful partnerships with organisations like Empact, we will be able to make a greater impact in the communities we operate in, and enable non-governmental organisations to unlock new business growth."

Empact's Yang said being honoured with the President's Volunteerism & Philanthropy Award helps his organisation raise awareness of the cause that it champions - strengthening the capacity of non-profits and social enterprises.

"It is our goal to make such capacity-building efforts affordable and accessible to 10,000 staff working in non-profit organisations and social enterprises across Asia," he said.

"We hope that this (award) inspires more corporates to join and partner with us to grow our Pro Bono School beyond this project, reaching more social organisations and bringing it to other parts of the world."

Credit Suisse, Empact, P&G