The December 2004 Tsunami: A Global Pro Bono “Tipping Point” for Deloitte

PBI was honored to recognize Deloitte Financial Advisory Services (FAS) LLP with the first-ever PBI President’s Award, presented at the 2013 PBI Annual Dinner on November 7 in New York.  Among its many contributions, Deloitte FAS has provided invaluable assistance to PBI, enhancing and refining PBI’s collection and analysis of annual pro bono performance data for its Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge® reports.  The company is also working with PBI, Merck & Co., Inc.**, and others on the Pro Bono Measurement Project, a comprehensive process to enable law firms and legal departments to measure the societal good and business benefits of their pro bono work.  As PBI President and CEO Esther F. Lardent explained when announcing the award:  

Deloitte is receiving PBI’s first-ever President’s Award because of its notable pro bono culture and its work with PBI to creatively craft solutions for the betterment of our communities.  The leadership at Deloitte** has successfully adopted pro bono as part of its culture and continues to demonstrate how valuable and effective pro bono collaboration can be.

The story of how Deloitte transformed its approach to pro bono — from ad-hoc to systematic — from something done on one’s own time into something recognized as part of Deloitte’s normal business — begins with a global pro bono “tipping point” for Deloitte.  In the wake of the devastating 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Deloitte heard the call to help.  It joined forces with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on tsunami reconstruction and provided over 14,000 hours of pro bono financial advisory, consulting, and audit and risk work to affected countries, ultimately helping the UN to more quickly and efficiently distribute relief funds to affected areas.

Although Deloitte also made a sizeable cash contribution to tsunami relief, the value of its services far outweighed its financial donation.  Deloitte recognized that sharing its knowledge and experience with nonprofit organizations held the potential for immediate and sustainable community impact.  As noted in Deloitte’s 2012 Pro Bono Report, Insight No. 4, although corporate philanthropy and nonprofit development has traditionally focused on cash donations, the donation of time and expertise represents an extremely valuable resource:

It became clear to us that, while our cash philanthropic budget was limited, we had other resources “in the bank.”  Rather than limit our donations to money that nonprofits would then spend on professional services, why not structure major gifts with both cash and pro bono components? We would end up giving more than we could in cash alone, and the nonprofit would get highly valuable assistance.

Since the events of 2004, Deloitte has solidified its commitment to pro bono work.  Its “business as usual” incorporation of pro bono into its culture and mindset includes an annual financial commitment to pro bono activities, a systematic and deliberate approach where results are measured, and a strategic methodology to select pro bono opportunities that have an impact on the community, aligned with Deloitte’s own philanthropic principles. As a result, since 2008, Deloitte has delivered more than 1,000 projects, with more than 4,400 professionals giving close to 365,000 hours.

In addition, Deloitte’s commitment to the global dimension of pro bono has continued, including its assistance to nonprofits in the wake of Haiti’s January 2010 earthquake.  More currently, Deloitte professionals are supporting the 2015 Special Olympics by delivering a wide range of high-impact work, including budgeting, business and operations planning, and strategic advisory work.

Deloitte FAS CEO David Williams accepted the President’s Award on Deloitte’s behalf on November 7.  In a moving acceptance speech, Williams recognized Deloitte’s employees for “giving it their all,” even as he recognized that “none of them, I can tell you, thinks we’re anywhere near done in terms of what we can do.”

Well said, and PBI looks forward to its ongoing collaboration with a company whose pro bono efforts continue to have a positive impact around the globe.

** denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM