An IT guru, a brilliant graphic designer, and an HR sage walk into an executive director’s office in a downtown nonprofit, and the IT guru says, “You asked for support from experienced business professionals like us, at no financial cost to you?”
While this could be the start of a bad joke, it’s not a joke at all. It’s pro bono—short for pro bono publico, meaning “for the public good.” Pro bono service is the donation of professional services to social change organizations. And, right now it’s Pro Bono Week, which celebrates and activates pro bono service around the world. So October 23-29 is the perfect time to consider what pro bono service can do to help you move your mission forward.
Taproot Foundation connects nonprofits and social change organizations with passionate, skilled volunteers who share their expertise pro bono. Through our programs, business professionals deliver marketing, strategy, HR, and IT solutions that organizations need to achieve their missions.
Admittedly, a brilliant pro bono graphic designer doesn’t typically walk into your office and offer to help (although we’ve seen it happen), but pro bono service is surprisingly more accessible than you may think. Right now you can post a short-term, high-impact project on Taproot+, Taproot Foundation’s online marketplace that connects nonprofits to business professionals for pro bono projects. Get started by joining Taproot’s free webinar on October 27 at 12:30 p.m. PT/2:30 p.m. CT/3:30 p.m. ET.
You can also see what kinds of projects other nonprofits are posting.
We know that all this sounds good, but time is a valuable commodity. So before you dive in to a pro bono project, here are five principles of good pro bono service to make sure you’re off to a good start:
Know and Define Your Needs
Engage pro bono resources proactively, according to your organization’s priorities. So if a review of your IT systems is NOT a priority for your organization, then it shouldn’t be your next pro bono project.
Get the Right Resource for the Right Job
Successful pro bono engagements align people, processes, and scope to address your specific need. So if a 25-year-old web designer says he’s always wanted to try copyediting, that’s not pro bono. Find the right professional for the job.
Be Realistic About Pro Bono Deadlines
Be thoughtful about which projects you can address; even small tasks can take longer than expected. Pro bono is rarely a good solution for urgent needs. If you needed it yesterday or want it in a week, pro bono won’t be the right solution for you.
Act Like a Paying Client
You want to be treated like a paying client, so treat the pro bono consultants as if you were paying them. That sets the tone for a high level of professionalism and makes sure you get what you really want from your volunteers.
Learning Goes Both Ways
A pro bono project is a partnership: you supply knowledge of your organization and field, while the consultant brings functional expertise and a fresh perspective.
Happy Pro Bono Week #PBW16!
Suzanne Craig is the director of marketing for Taproot Foundation and has 15+ years of experience in marketing in the business and nonprofit sectors. Taproot Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit, connects nonprofits and social change organizations with passionate, skilled volunteers who share their expertise pro bono. Taproot is creating a world where organizations dedicated to social change have full access—through pro bono service—to the marketing, strategy, HR, and IT resources they need to be most effective. Stay in touch!