Morgan Stanley
  • Giving Back
  • Jun 19, 2015

Taking Volunteering to the Next Level

Morgan Stanley Strategy Challenge pairs skills of employees with needs of nonprofits.

Skill-based, pro bono service allows volunteers to create lasting, meaningful impact with nonprofit organizations. In identifying the need for more of this form of corporate philanthropic involvement with charities, and after hearing employees express a desire to go further and apply their on-the-job skills to volunteer service, the firm established the Morgan Stanley Strategy Challenge.

Developed in 2009, the Strategy Challenge is designed to harness the high-value skills of our employees and deliver that talent through pro bono consulting. The eight-week program includes in-depth analysis and results in data-driven, tactical strategic plans that are formally presented to each of the nonprofit partners. Specifically, charities receive substantive research and action plans on pressing growth issues, including expansion, program alignment, and new business opportunities. Since 2009, 90 nonprofits have received consulting services from 474 employees through more than 56,000 of donated pro bono volunteer hours.

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This past month, Morgan Stanley completed its seventh annual Strategy Challenge program in the US, and the second annual Strategy Challenge in the UK. In each location, the program culminated in a final event, during which teams of employees presented recommendations for the partner nonprofits to a panel of judges. The winning recommendations for this year’s Strategy Challenge came from the employee teams working with The Headstrong Project in the US, and Rays of Sunshine and ThinkForward in the UK.

The Headstrong Project, which helps veterans who faced combat after the tragic events of September 11 recover from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related conditions, had challenged the Morgan Stanley team to find them a new city to which it would expand its services. With the help of the Morgan Stanley team’s recommendations, the organization is positioned to expand its services to San Diego, CA, this year.

Rays of Sunshine, a London-based charity which grants wishes to children age three to eighteen that are living with serious or terminal illnesses, challenged the Morgan Stanley team to analyze the ability to expand their current model and the impact of a potential expansion. As part of their recommendation, the Morgan Stanley team suggested the organization diversify their services in order to enable them to increase their future growth.

Recently established ThinkForward helps young people over age 14 who are at risk of dropping out of education and becoming NEET (not in education, training or employment) by providing coaching until the age of 19 when they hope to have successfully transitioned the individual into training or employment. ThinkForward tasked the Morgan Stanley team to help them build a sustainable framework for future growth. The Morgan Stanley team provided them with analysis on how to identify key areas of the nation that require this type of program, the funding model to establish growth, and also an internal organizational structure that will provide a reduction in operating cost.

“Each year, the caliber of thoughtful analysis and strategic recommendations delivered by our employees is truly astounding and a testament to the skills they bring to their work every day,” says Joan Steinberg, Global Head of Philanthropy at Morgan Stanley. “But, even more remarkable are the strong bonds and the true sense of partnership that is forged between our employees and their nonprofit partners. As we have seen with past Strategy Challenge participants, the impact of their efforts can be seen directly in our communities.”

The Children’s Museum of Manhattan is one past participant that has been able to bring its Strategy Challenge recommendation to fruition. Leveraging the strategic insights from its Morgan Stanley team and the larger network of peers it was exposed to during the program, the organization developed a new model for community engagement around health and learning. The program is in its second year and seeing great success.

While the Strategy Challenge program is available to Associates or Vice Presidents in all divisions across Morgan Stanley, Analysts and more junior Associates in our Investment Banking and Global Capital Markets Divisions can also participate in the Morgan Stanley Institutional Nonprofit Collaborative (MS Inc.) program. Similar to the Strategy Challenge, MS Inc. is a skill-based volunteer program that consists of multi-month pro bono consulting projects that pair Analysts and Associates with nonprofit organizations on projects related to financial advisory, marketing, organizational improvement or strategic insight.

MS Inc. was developed in 2012, in partnership with Youth Inc. Based in New York, the organization works with nonprofits focused on the needs of underserved children. Since the launch of the MS Inc. program, more than 80 analysts and associates have delivered 4,000+ hours of service, benefitting 25 nonprofit organizations.

For senior executives, Morgan Stanley launched its Nonprofit Leaders program in 2012 to help Managing Directors become meaningfully involved in the leadership of nonprofit organizations in their communities. The program offers periodic board trainings to equip them with the skills necessary to become outstanding nonprofit board members, and also holds advanced trainings for more seasoned board members to sharpen their skills and learn from one other’s experiences. More than 250 Managing Directors have successfully completed the program to date.

For more on the Strategy Challenge, visit

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