Qualcomm Takes on Mission to Expand Corporate Giving

Monday, October 31, 2016

This is one in a series of profiles highlighting the work of our longtime members to commemorate the 40th anniversary of San Diego Grantmakers' founding in 1976.

Most San Diegans know Qualcomm as a powerhouse in the local technology industry and one of San Diego’s largest employers. However, some may not realize that giving back to the community is ingrained in Qualcomm’s culture, primarily through grant-making and employee volunteering.

In 2015, Qualcomm decided to step up its giving game by collaborating with Mission Edge, a San Diego-based nonprofit that provides operational support to other nonprofits in the areas of finance and human resources. By setting them up for success behind the scenes, Mission Edge helps organizations focus their energy to create innovative programs and services that help the community. Their newest venture, Mission Labs, aims to transform the ability for organizations to accelerate innovation and scale by paving the way for social enterprise to take root – through education, incubation, and mentorship. 

Qualcomm Volunteers on a Mission

According to Qualcomm’s Manager of Social Responsibility Julia Dorfman, Qualcomm has been working with Mission Edge for a few years to build this partnership because of the organization’s unique service role in the community and the amount of nonprofits they help. “Mission Edge acts as a hub to bring different organizations together around social change through their services and programs. This is an essential need and we believe strongly in that work,” she adds. 

From March to September of 2015, Qualcomm funded a pilot program through Mission Edge that aims to connect nonprofit organizations with corporate volunteers who have the appropriate skills, interests, and availability to fulfill nonprofits’ specific needs. In addition to providing funding to get the program off the ground, Qualcomm’s well-established experience with volunteerism, combined with the passion of its employees for giving back, made them the ideal company with which to launch the program. 

“Our goal with launching this skills-based volunteer program was to give Qualcomm employees a great giving back experience, but to also hopefully be able to roll the program out to the greater community so other companies and nonprofits could benefit from this type of program,” says Julia. 

Matching Success!

The program provides nonprofits with affordable access to professional expertise, best practices, and tools to increase capacity. Mission Edge first identified Qualcomm employees interested in volunteering, assessed their skills and interests, matched them with appropriate opportunities, and provided volunteer training. They also coordinated with local nonprofit organizations to assess their needs and identify appropriate projects to which corporate employee volunteers could contribute their expertise. 

Katie Wiest is a Qualcomm employee who participated in the program and was matched with A Reason to Survive (ARTS). She shared that her most significant take-away from the experience was “brainstorming with other team members and learning about the organization’s mission, as well as connecting and networking with other Qualcomm employees.”

Qualcomm volunteer Geeta Chinai echoes Katie’s sentiments in regard to building internal relationships among colleagues: “I had the opportunity to work with Qualcomm employees, from different organizations and in different roles, whom I might never have worked with otherwise.”

Adelina Dequito, another Qualcomm volunteer, enjoyed participating in the program because “it allowed me to really use my skills from my job to contribute and support the organization’s mission.” 

The result of the pilot program was dozens of volunteers from Qualcomm using skills such as branding, business planning, and recruitment to fulfill local needs that included urban planning, the arts, youth development, poverty elimination, and waste reduction.   

By collaborating with individuals from outside the nonprofit sector, participating nonprofit organizations have the ability to harness new perspectives and apply techniques that are proven to be successful in the private sector. 

Jacqui Pernicano is the COO of Junior Achievement of San Diego County, an organization that provides youth programs and one of the beneficiaries of Mission Edge’s program. According to Jacqui, “the Qualcomm staff assigned to our HR project was truly amazing. We tasked the group with developing an employee accountability model. Once we had that structure, we moved into performance evaluation based on established goals, values-based behaviors, and core competencies. Lastly, the group assisted in creating a leveling chart with pay grades. The service the team provided was extremely helpful. It is amazing how much was accomplished with skilled volunteers lending expertise in their field.” 

Taking it to the Next Level

The skills-based program has already transitioned from pilot to formal planning for phase two. And, according to Julia, the program will be much more robust the second time around, moving from a project-based approach to really making Mission Edge the go-between for corporate volunteers who have skills to offer and the nonprofits who need those skills. With more than 100 employees expected to participate in 2016, Mission Edge and Qualcomm are hoping to also help these corporate volunteers gateway into positions on nonprofit boards and committees, in addition to further expanding their on-the-ground volunteerism. 

“We want the program to match employees to more long-term volunteer solutions that help nonprofits fill the gap for specific skill sets while connecting volunteers to meaningful experiences,” adds Julia. 

San Diego Grantmakers Members Can Continue the Mission

According to Julia, San Diego Grantmakers members are part of continuing Qualcomm and Mission Edge’s work to expand skills-based volunteerism throughout San Diego and beyond. 

“San Diego Grantmakers provides a venue for us to share information on this program with other corporate grantmakers. This increases the chances of this important initiative catching on and achieving even more corporate funding and interested volunteers,” she concludes.

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