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Pro Bono Pro Volunteering with USC Neighborhood Academic Initiative

By January 29, 2015

When I first started my #dreamjob at, I got a question from Jon Varese, our Lead Technical Writer: “Does pro bono volunteering have to mean helping organizations implement Salesforce?” My reply: “No! It can be…well, almost anything!”

Being the nonprofit arm of Salesforce, we of course have an incredible technology-focused pro bono program. This program provides benefits to both nonprofit organizations, who receive assistance with their Salesforce installations and optimizations, and to our employee experts, who up-level their skills through this work.

While many of our employees are experts on the finer points of Salesforce account modeling and can wax poetic about object-oriented programming, in many cases that Salesforce know-how is just the tip of the iceberg. We also have talented employees from a diverse range of professional backgrounds that choose to volunteer their skills in all kinds of ways.

Pro Bono ProJon Varese happens to be one of those volunteers. He logs his pro bono volunteering with the University of Southern California Neighborhood Academic Initiative, or NAI. It’s a celebrated seven-year pre-college enrichment program that demonstrates USC’s commitment to the neighborhoods and families around the university. The program is designed to prepare low-income students in the community for admission to college or university. Those who complete the program, meet USC’s competitive admission requirements, and choose to attend USC, are rewarded with a full 4.5-year financial package, minus loans.

By volunteering pro bono with NAI, Jon stays connected to his former career in academia, while leveraging skills he doesn’t use in his day job and supporting a cause he’s passionate about. Jon is a regular guest lecturer for their classes and seminars, as well as a writing tutor and mentor to the students.

Like many small nonprofits, NAI has virtually no marketing budget, yet they are in desperate need of marketing resources to help tell their story. So last summer, Jon worked with their team to produce a promotional video for the program, which they now use in their fundraising efforts. “I wanted to use my skills as a digital storyteller to create something that would help get the word out about what this program is doing,” he says.

To date, the video has helped NAI to raise over $10,000 in scholarship funds. It even convinced the board of an international research consortium, The Dickens Project, to develop an ongoing partnership with NAI, and to provide ongoing funding for scholarships!

This month, we salute Jon and all the Salesforce Pro Bono Pros who use their unique talents to make an impact in our community.

Learn more about the Pro Bono Program