New skills blossom from pro bono service
When Moody’s employees lend their expertise to a pro bono project at a nonprofit, they do more than help grow that organization’s impact and reach. Our people and our company gain something just as valuable.
“Employees in our pro bono programs develop new skills and greater confidence for their work,” says Monica Zucker, a Moody’s Corporation senior CSR associate, who coordinates volunteer and pro bono opportunities in our New York City office. “At the same time, they’re bridging gaps and solving challenges that these nonprofits could rarely afford to tackle on their own. It’s a classic win-win.”
We have put this synergy between volunteerism and professional development goals to work in several pro bono engagements connected with Reshape Tomorrow™, our signature financial empowerment initiative dedicated to helping people overcome the challenges of growing a small business. Notably, we piloted the pro bono program Moody’s Future Solutions™ in New York City last fall.
“We steered even more of our volunteer and pro bono service toward nonprofits that are working to break down economic barriers last year,”says Zucker. “We’ve also been focusing on projects where our employees can use their professional skills to make a difference and learn from the experience.”
Clearer insights, better decisions
Moody’s Future Solutions paired 16 employees from our Moody’s Investors Service Ratings & Research Support (RRS) Group with nonprofits Accion East and Start Small Think Big. Each project team included four or five associate analysts, an associate analyst team manager and a lead analyst advisor, with an associate managing director serving as overall program advisor.
Our RRS analysts helped improve the nonprofits’ financial, budget and data analysis processes. As a result, these two organizations aligned with our Reshape Tomorrow initiative have become better equipped to help their clients launch and operate small businesses.
The team assigned to Start Small Think Big created a more user-friendly budgeting template for the nonprofit, which provides legal, financial and marketing expertise to entrepreneurs in New York City’s underserved neighborhoods. Instead of weeks spent compiling budgets by hand, Executive Director Jennifer DaSilva and her finance committee can now integrate data straight from their bookkeeping software and get an accurate snapshot of the organization’s financial status at any time.
“The solution that the Moody’s team put together is saving me hours upon hours of time and allowing me to think much more creatively about how and where we spend our money,” DaSilva says. “We can see patterns and trends that have existed all along, but we just didn’t have any real insight into.”
A different challenge confronted the RRS analysts at Accion East, which connects small business owners with affordable loans, business expertise and other resources. Bill Popeleski, the nonprofit’s chief operations officer, asked our team to recommend changes that could help Accion extend more loans without increasing its overall default and loss rates. After studying Accion’s practices and technologies, including an on-site visit, the Moody’s team determined that applicants’ income levels tend to be a better predictor of risk than their FICO® scores, and developed a plan to streamline the loan application process and manage related data more efficiently.
“We appreciated the Moody’s team’s accuracy and insights,” says Accion’s Popeleski.“Their recommendations are practical and can be implemented over a relatively short time frame.”
Learning to lead
For the early-career-stage Moody’s employees involved, Moody’s Future Solutions offered a chance to problem-solve in a business environment with less structure and more leadership demands. “I gained invaluable insight into the nitty-gritty challenges that an organization actually faces,” says Associate Analyst Nick Caruso, who worked with Start Small Think Big.
His teammate Dawei Ma says she liked using her professional knowledge to spark positive change in the community. “Many of the small businesses supported by Start Small Think Big are minority- or women-owned,” Masays. “By helping the nonprofit grow and develop better financial tools, I’m indirectly making an impact on those entrepreneurs.”
At the end of their assignments, the associate analysts shared what they learned in presentations to RRS colleagues and senior executives. “It was a great way for these employees to raise their profile in the company and show how they’re preparing to take on bigger roles,” says Zucker. Based on the pilot’s success, we have initiated a pro bono project with a UK partner and plan to launch a global immersive program in 2019.
“We can make a bigger difference through projects that tap into our core expertise and allow our employees to grow while they give,”Zucker says. “People feel connected to something meaningful and that there’seven greater purpose in what we do at Moody’s.”
“The solution that the Moody’s team put together is saving me hours upon hours of time and allowing me to think much more creatively about how and where we spend our money.”
EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, START SMALL THINK BIG
“We steered even more of our volunteer and pro bono service toward nonprofits that are working to break down economic barriers last year.”
SENIOR CSR ASSOCIATE, MOODY’S CORPORATION
“Many of the small businesses supported by Start Small Think Big are minority- or women-owned. By helping the nonprofit grow and develop better financial tools, I’m indirectly making an impact on those entrepreneurs.”
ASSOCIATE ANALYST, MOODY’S INVESTORS SERVICE
Hours dedicated by 16 Moody’s RRS employees, volunteering an average of five hours per week, to pro bono projects at New York City nonprofits Accion East and Start Small Think Big