Type of Work: Employee-Motivated Volunteer Project Client: Students, through its CommUnity Scholarship Program
Protiviti’s CommUnity Scholarship program was founded in 2005 in Chicago, with the aim of supporting promising students in some of the city’s most economically challenged neighborhoods. Every year, Protiviti Chicago employees fund the scholarship by contributing around $50,000, which enables them to select two students in need from local high schools for a $5,000-a-year renewable scholarship.
The idea for the CommUnity program originated with Sharon Lindstrom, a Protiviti Chicago Managing Director. Inspired by her role on the board of non-profit organization Umoja, which is dedicated to helping the academic success and personal growth of disadvantaged students in the Chicago area, Lindstrom suggested a scholarship program that would be fully funded by Chicago employees’ donations.
Since it launched, the Protiviti Chicago office has been able to provide two high school students each year with $5,000 per year towards their college fees, for a total of $20,000 per student. The goal of the program, Lindstrom says, is to have two scholars at each level in college, for a total of $40,000 in scholarships granted per year.
“Only 6 percent of incoming Chicago public high school freshman graduated college by the age of 25, and for African Americans or Latino males, it was 2 percent,” Lindstrom says. “All of us understood the power of a college education and just how many doors it opened in our own lives and that really became the starting point for this program.”
Since it started, Protiviti Chicago’s scholarship program has raised more than $400,000 and seen eleven students graduate from college, with another nine currently in college. Several graduates have extended their educational pursuits, earning masters degrees, and Protiviti’s first scholar graduated with a doctorate degree in education in 2015.
The success of the scholarship program has not only benefited the students, but also the office itself. Chicago employees volunteer to be personally involved in the judging and the selection process of the scholarship students, or elect to be their “buddies” by maintaining contact and mentoring them during their college years, and the whole office receives regular updates on the students’ progress, Lindstrom says.
“I think our people love to team together and solve problems, and everyone understands that we do have a problem in our schools in very under-resourced areas,” Lindstrom says. “It’s amazing how they’ve responded to this. I think it speaks volumes about the type of people we have working here at Protiviti.”
Lindstrom says one of the keys to the success of the program is the ability for employees to actually get to know the people they’ve personally helped through the program. For the Chicago office, the sense of a very personal investment in the success of the students has brought the whole office together and “many say that the students feel almost like family members,” she says. “When I think about consulting, what assets do we have? Our people. So, we thought it made sense to be engaged in the next generation of Chicagoans. People. Developing people. That’s where we can come in and make an impact.”
In 2015, inspired by Chicago, the Protiviti Atlanta and Washington DC offices also began their own scholarship program.