Volunteers matched

Cisco pilots online tool that teams employee volunteers with nonprofits.

By Todd Cohen

[03.22.04] — Cisco Systems in San Jose, Calif., has teamed up with grantmaking-software firm CyberGrants in Andover, Mass., to develop and pilot a database-matching “service grant” tool that will connect Cisco employees with nonprofits needing volunteers.

The online tool will let nonprofits submit requests for Cisco volunteers, including “deliverables” for specific projects.

Nonprofits that previously submitted online requests to Cisco for grants or technology donations will not have to resubmit basic organizational information, such as their mission.

Cisco employees can use the tool to post their volunteer interests and professional expertise, and to search for volunteer opportunities that can range from swinging a hammer to something more complex, such as a need involving marketing, finance or human resources.

In an email message to select nonprofits for the pilot launch of its service-grant tool, Cisco says its employees had a lot to offer nonprofits, not just in hardware and networking, but also in a broad range of corporate functions.

Like existing CyberGrants tools that Cisco uses for cash grants and product donations, the service-grant tool automatically notifies employees when their interests and expertise match the needs of nonprofits that submit volunteer requests.

Employees then can use the tool to indicate whether they are interested and, if they are, the tool sends an email message to the nonprofit and to the employee’s manager.

The tool is being piloted in Cisco’s San Jose headquarters and soon will be available to Cisco employees and nonprofits in Chelmsford, Mass.; Richardson, Tex.; and Research Triangle Park, N.C.

Cisco and CyberGrants both have agreed to donate the volunteer-matching tool to large nonprofits for use by their own employees if it shows promise.

Cisco, which has downsized in recent years, also has redesigned its “Cisco fellows” program that placed laid-off employees in staff roles with nonprofits for up to 18 months, and now will place high-potential employees with nonprofits to complete specific assignments lasting three months to a year.

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