A Pro Bono Partnership

July 16, 2014

By Stacey Boeke, Program Director, Taproot Foundation and Lindsey Morgan, Taproot Foundation Fellow

When Hillshire Brands emerged as a new organization, it sought to strategically align its corporate contributions to the communities where employees live and work through volunteerism, financial contributions, product donations, and strategic partnerships. Hillshire wanted to create deep and lasting partnerships in its communities.

As part of this strategy, Hillshire deepened its relationship with its partner Feeding America. Feeding America is the nation’s leading domestic hunger-relief nonprofit. The Feeding America network feeds more than 37 million individuals each year. Annually, Hillshire donates over 2.8 million pounds of food to the people who need it most through this organization. Hillshire participates in Feeding America affiliated food banks’ hunger walks and meal packing programs, and makes financial contributions to Feeding America and its member food banks through the Hillshire Brands Foundation.

Hillshire wanted to expand its impact. Its employees work together every day toward a common purpose: Fulfilling the Hunger for a Life Well Fed. What would happen if Hillshire could use employees’ professional expertise to make an impact for the Feeding America network?

Hillshire invited Taproot Foundation, in partnership with Feeding America, to design a pro bono program that would allow Hillshire employees to use their skills to help Feeding America and member food banks near Hillshire facilities strengthen their organizations. Food banks, like other nonprofits, often have difficulty accessing professional expertise to support their work in the community.

Taproot worked with Feeding America to survey member organizations to understand the needs of food banks. In addition to support in finance, marketing, and human resources, Taproot also discovered that the network needed support in supply chain management and food safety skills which Hillshire had in abundance. Additionally, Taproot worked with Hillshire employees to understand business objectives that the pro bono engagement must help further and the realities of the constraints of the business.

Hillshire’s pro bono initiative was designed around a series of Done-In-A-Day events created for focused problem solving and maximum impact. Hillshire invited leaders and subject experts from Feeding America and its members to diagnostic sessions. These one-day problem-solving sessions engaged leaders from the Network and Hillshire executives to discuss critical challenges facing each organization. From each session, the Feeding America network members walked away with a road map to complete prioritized projects.

Once the types of projects were determined, Hillshire worked with Taproot to identify projects that they could help solve in a day. Hillshire provided a team of experts to give one day of undivided attention to tackle challenges in the areas of Human Resources, Finance, Food Safety, Operations Safety, and Technology.

Feeding America walked away with tangible work plans that they could immediately start using. The organization reported that working with the new sector challenged participants to approach problems in a new way and that they were exposed to new ideas that will positively impact their organization. More than half of the charity’s participants reported that they didn’t have access to these services elsewhere.

Hillshire Brands positively impacted the Feeding America network by providing the organization and its members with services that would immediately help address business challenges the organizations faced.

Hillshire benefited from the partnership as well. Hillshire values employees expanding their impact beyond the company and into the community. The pro bono work allowed employees to create a positive and lasting change for a nonprofit organization. Employees reported that they gained cross-functional experience and a greater appreciation for the challenges faced by the nonprofit sector. They also reported feeling proud of Hillshire as a result of their participation in this program.

Both Feeding America and Hillshire stepped closer to their missions through this pro bono initiative, as the projects they completed made short-term and long-term impacts on efforts to feed America’s hungry.

Interested in learning more about how pro bono comes to life across the Feeding America network? Check out Taproot’s series over the next month at Pro Bono Junkie’s Blog.