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The value of skills-based volunteering

“I have just two requests, don’t commit to anything for 6 months and I still cook dinner.”

By Shelley Dinehart

Shelley Dinehart is the founder of Tallaine Associates and the Program Manager at Compass, Philadelphia. Compass provides pro bono consulting to transform communities through equitable access to business professionals who volunteer their skills with nonprofits. Compass has dedicated teams in Chicago, Greater Philadelphia, and Greater Washington, and has been providing pro bono professional consulting services to nonprofit organizations since 2001. We have connected more than 3,500 business professionals with nonprofits to complete 875 projects, providing over $91 million in pro bono consulting services. To date, Compass has also placed 163 professionals onto 102 nonprofit boards.

I decided to retire early to spend more time with my family before my two children headed off to college. For over two decades, my husband, Dave and I juggled fulfilling and demanding careers while raising active children and had become master planners. Astutely anticipating my temptation to respond to new and different opportunities, Dave declared, “I have just two requests, don’t commit to anything for 6 months and I still cook dinner.” My agreement to “not commit” to anything for 6 months was a gift, giving me the time and air cover to reflect, explore my interests, reconnect with friends and former colleagues, and think about my next steps. And, lucky for me, Dave is an excellent cook!

In the subsequent months, I had the freedom to attend school events, enjoy downtime with the family, and travel. I also made time for coffee with friends, lunch with former colleagues, and professional events. The conversation often turned to work challenges. As a former Chief Human Resources Officer in financial services, I love to coach leaders as they grapple with organizational issues, talent strategies, and employee engagement. Soon friends began referring others to me for my “pro bono” guidance, and I found that my expertise was filling a void.

Simultaneously, I had the good fortune to meet Beth Dahle, the former Executive Director of Compass, at a dinner in Philadelphia. Over dinner, she shared stories about Compass’ impact in the nonprofit community, building capacity through pro bono strategic consulting. Having served on nonprofit boards throughout my career, I had a deep respect for nonprofits and the significant contributions they make to our communities. Beth and I continued our conversation over coffee in the following weeks. Before I knew it, I was a volunteer Project Manager, leading a team of business professionals on a Board Development consulting engagement for a local nonprofit. Compass provided the opportunity to meet and engage with a diverse and dedicated group of business professionals and talented, passionate nonprofit leaders on critical topics. Each year, I was introduced to a new team, nonprofit, and issue area. I was hooked and became a repeat volunteer.

Fast forward, five years later, I have launched my own human capital consulting firm, and I have joined the staff at Compass as the Program Manager, overseeing consulting programs in Philadelphia. I often reflect on the commitment to my husband, and how that led me to explore options I never considered. It ultimately enabled me to create the next phase of my career, blending the capabilities I developed in a corporate environment with my passion for community engagement and solving strategic issues. I couldn’t be happier.

Compass Volunteer Applications for 2021-22 Classic Projects will open at the end of August. Learn more about Compass and skills-based volunteering.

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