Advisory Board Company Fills Prescription for Corporate Philanthropy
This post was featured in Forbes.com.
It seems like everyone in this country has a complaint about the health care and education systems. The Advisory Board Company, however, makes its business looking for solutions in healthcare and higher education. The company works with over 93 percent of the best hospitals in the country, as ranked by U.S. News and World Report and the Leapfrog Group.
Indeed, making the world a better place is what The Advisory Board Company is all about.
Launched in an apartment in 1979, The Advisory Board Company has grown to employ over 2,000 people in eight offices, including one in India and another in the United Kingdom. As a measure of its prioritization on corporate philanthropy, the company is one of the driving forces behind A Billion + Change, a national campaign to mobilize billions of dollars of pro bono and skills-based services from corporate America by 2013. For its part, The Advisory Board Company has committed to giving 2,000 hours of pro bono service to high-performing non-profits in education and health care. The company seeks to offer strategic guidance assisting these non-profits with business and financial strategy, operational efficiency, industry research and branding.
It’s also a restless company when it comes to volunteer programs. The firm aims to do good and do well, and is constantly examining its own programs and those of others to find innovative ways to make positive change both on and off the clock in education and health care.
One way that The Advisory Board Company optimizes employee engagement is by providing such benefits as up to 10 days of paid leave for community service. An attractive prospect for recruiting new talent, the company originally placed young employees at the vanguard of their corporate volunteer programs. “We used to have what we call service leaders, who tended to make a difference with hands-on work," explains Graham McLaughlin, Senior Director of The Advisory Board. “Their contribution was fantastic, and it helped us graduate to a more focused group of senior department leads that we now have who are able to utilize our unique differentiators.”
The Advisory Board is obsessed with maximizing good corporate citizenship. As the company works in health care, it saw partnering with community clinics as a natural fit for the storehouse of skill sets its employees possess. The firm's work at one location became the jumping off point for a national pro bono initiative centered around other community clinics. Outside of health care, its work in education has 35 employees tutoring kids at a nearby school during lunch hour several days a week.
This October 1st, A Billion Plus Change will host its first campaign event on the west coast at L.A.'s California Endowment. Leaders in policy, academia, industry and civic engagement will gather to showcase how innovative businesses are shaping the future of corporate service to tackle the major challenges of the 21st century. McLaughlin sees this event as an opportunity to focus on how The Advisory Board Company can inspire employees towards further volunteer action while also studying best practices of other comapnies. “The purpose here is, ‘here’s what other firms did. Let us get your feedback and kind of buddy into the year.’”
But like a good friend, The Advisory Board isn’t just going to tell A Billion + Change what it wants to hear. Indeed, the critical eye that the company puts on its own efforts (McLaughlin measures The Advisory Board’s impact as a “B+” and its CSR reporting as a “D-”) will be applied to its partners in corporate social responsibility. “There’s a lot of different problems that we don’t have answers for. One of the reasons I’m doing this is to ask, ‘What are the answers? What are the problems?’”
“I push A Billion + Change on this a lot,” says McLaughlin. While The Advisory Board recognizes the limitations of an inexperienced workforce, there are also advantages, and it’s hard not to ask to what degree this youthful component informs the company’s critical eye.
“We see our work in pro bono as just an extension of our everyday work in a different setting and a different context,” McLaughlin states. Leveraging a highly engaged workforce is a constantly moving goalpost. The Advisory Board focuses on opportunities rather than challenges, however. “We’re still thinking this through,” says McLaughlin. “There really isn’t a model for our business. We have a different kind of service line.”
A Billion + Change has already secured nearly $1.8 billion in corporate pledges and 12 million hours of time and talent to pro bono programs. If your company would like to take the A Billion Plus Change pledge, go to www.abillionpluschange.org for more information.
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