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Transforming the Community Through Skill-Based Volunteering

A group having a meeting in masks at an office

Volunteers from the Blue Crew, Independence Blue Cross’s (Independence) corporate volunteer program, have made a positive impact in the community for the last 20 years by supporting local nonprofits through a variety of volunteer opportunities.

For Blue Crew volunteers looking to make a deeper commitment, skill-based volunteering is the answer! Compass Philadelphia (Compass) brings together nonprofits in need of free strategic help and highly-skilled and engaged volunteers looking to transform their communities.

Compass recruits, trains, and supports select teams of local business professionals with experience in different areas, including strategic planning, finance, marketing and communications, change management, technology, and operations. These volunteers are then paired with a Compass nonprofit client to provide free consulting services to help guide the organization to success.

For the 2020-21 Compass project year, seven Independence associates were selected to participate in the program. Thank you to these volunteers who participated with Compass Philadelphia to help strengthen local nonprofits.

It’s Q&A Time!

We talked with a few of our volunteers to learn more about their experience.

  • Karen Crede Gibbons, Director, Marketing Solutions & Communications
  • Ozoemezia Ebo, Director, Enterprise Risk Management
  • Milissa (Idette) Elizondo, Medical Cost Transformation Enablement Manager
  • Diana Quattrone, Corporate Communications Manager
  • Corinne Whisler, Director Capital Plan & Forecasting

What inspired you to get involved with Compass?

Gibbons: I wanted a chance to expand my skills outside of my “day job” and be able to apply the experience I’ve gained with Independence, and learn from other professionals. 

Ebo: I was looking for a way to give back to the community in a way that resonates with my personal values.

Elizondo: This was an opportunity to get to know an organization in more detail and help them solve a business problem. It was also an opportunity to work with leaders from other organizations.

Quattrone: I was immediately drawn to the idea of using my professional skills in a meaningful way for an organization in need.

Whisler: I had been considering nonprofit board service and wanted to learn more about it. When speaking with a colleague, she mentioned that she had participated in a Compass project previously and thought it might be a good first step.

What nonprofit were you paired with? Describe your experience and/or how you used your skills to help your assigned nonprofit.

Gibbons: I was assigned to the Norris Square Community Alliance. The agency was in need of a strategic marketing plan, which is something I build regularly to support product and program launches at Independence. Many of the same principals and approaches that I use in my marketing role were easy to apply to creating a plan for Norris Square.

Ebo: I was partnered with Cradles to Crayons, and I would describe my experience as rewarding and fulfilling. I leveraged my business consulting background to make recommendations on enhancements to the client’s operational and financial models that would be better suited to continued success in a post-pandemic world.

Elizondo: I was partnered with Cradles to Crayons. Using my financial consulting background, I helped develop a financial model, and worked collaboratively with my team and Independence colleague, Ozo, on operational metrics to help them determine their operational model and staffing needs going forward.

Quattrone: The most rewarding part for me was working with the people that utilized the services that Judith Creed Horizons for Achieving Independence offered. Also, meeting the other professionals in my group was a fantastic experience.

Whisler: I worked with the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) on a board development project. I used my finance background to provide feedback to the treasurer on improvements to their quarterly reporting package, my analytic skills to review skill gaps in the current board, and research skills from my days studying to earn an MBA to provide recommendations for governance best practices.

What was the most rewarding part of your experience?

Gibbons: It was fulfilling to hear the board’s feedback after our final presentation. They were very open and accepting of the recommendations and were very engaged in the discussion. They were eager to apply much of what we shared; my team felt like we had done meaningful and useful work.

Ebo: The most rewarding part of my experience was being able to present solutions that would aid Cradles to Crayons in delivering on its mission to assist children.

Elizondo: I like the idea that the work I am doing might have a long-term impact. I also understand the organization’s mission and value and have an interest in continuing to support their work in the region in any way that I can going forward. I feel I am a better advocate and supporter of their work.

Quattrone: Working with the people that utilized Judith Creed Horizons for Achieving Independence’s services was the most rewarding part for me. Also, meeting the other professionals in my group was a fantastic experience.

Whisler: The entire board was so open to feedback and genuinely appreciative of our time and efforts. We left the final presentation with a high degree of confidence that many of our recommendations would be implemented. It is nice to think we will have a positive lasting impact on the success of their organization.

What did you learn from this experience?

Crede Gibbons: I realized that I know very little about social services and the challenges faced by nonprofit organizations! I enjoyed learning it so much that I have pursued board placement and am excited to apply some of what I learned through the Compass program to a permanent board role.

Ebo: This experience broadened my perspective on not only what Cradles to Crayons is doing to help children but also other peer organizations across the country. I also benefited from meeting a unique and talented group of teammates.

Elizondo: I learned about the challenges and rewards of operating a nonprofit during the COVID-19 pandemic. I also had the opportunity to learn about how important financial support is to nonprofit organizations in terms of their success.

Quattrone: I learned about an amazing organization I never would have known about if I hadn’t signed up for Compass. This type of volunteering is really rewarding for me, and I want to do more of it.

Whisler: I gained a much deeper understanding about the roles, responsibilities, and expectations of a nonprofit board and board member. The most important factor, from what I can tell, is passion for the mission of the organization.

Get Involved with Compass Philadelphia

Interested in skill-based volunteering to make a difference in the community? Visit Compass Philadelphia to learn more and for information on applying for the 2021-22 project year.

Veronica Serrano

Mother. Wife. TV junkie. Shopaholic. That’s me in a nutshell – outside of work. As a copywriter at IBX, I enjoy learning about the health and wellness topics that I write about and hope to incorporate more healthy habits into my daily life to give me the energy to keep up with my baby girl.