Professionalizing Pro Bono Volunteering
I'll volunteer that I’m a big fan of the Taproot Foundation, an organization that's been an instrumental player in the pro bono movement in 2001 and has been steering the way ever since (matter of fact, I’m a new board member of the organization). Through award-winning programs, groundbreaking thought leadership and partnerships with companies to develop and scale corporate pro bono programs, Taproot works to engage the nation’s millions of business professionals in applying not just their time, but their skills, in the service of the nation’s nonprofit community.
Now I’ve got another reason to salute my friends at Taproot; they’ve just announced the launch of a new platform that will serve as a one-stop shop for nonprofits and businesses engaged in pro bono work.
Thanks in part to organizations like Taproot, pro bono is big business these days, a hot-and-getting-hotter marketplace estimated at $15 billion that’s drawing participation from global corporate leaders. Indeed, just one of the campaigns that Taproot helped spark, A Billion Plus Change, has already secured an estimated $2 billion in pro bono resources from leading companies across the country. As Taproot founder Aaron Hurst sees it, “The movement is fundamentally to have professionals recognize the honor and privilege to be able to work in their field, realizing that many can’t afford their services and changing what it means to be a professional to include doing good work, pro-bono work, which is the literal translation.”
The pro bono movement is a win-win for everyone involved. As companies seek to engage employees in their corporate philanthropy, they’re tapping into the skills and resources that are the core of the company. Businesses have been paying a lot of attention lately to crafting employee engagement programs that reflect what employees care about and that can be seen as an employee benefit. As a part of these programs, companies are instituting policies such as matching gifts programs, payroll deductions for nonprofits, employee days of service and disaster relief campaigns, to name a few. Skills-based volunteering is often a centerpiece of all of these initiatives, one which delivers high impact to employee and nonprofit alike.
Effective pro-bono initiatives feel authentic, springing naturally from an alignment between employee interests, community needs and company programs. When all of the pieces are in place, skills-based volunteering programs yield tremendous benefits. Employees gain leadership training, job skill development and internal networking beyond the highly valued community service experience. According to a study on skills-based volunteering by True Impact, skills-based volunteers are 142% more likely to report job-related skills-gains than traditional volunteers, 47% more likely to report high satisfaction from volunteering than traditional volunteers, and 82% more likely to report that volunteerism generated new recruits for their company versus traditional volunteers. And from the nonprofit point of view, pro bono and volunteering of skills and talents can be as much as 500% more valuable for nonprofits.
Taproot wants to further expand the pro bono market by increasing the accessibility and professionalization of pro bono services. How? By helping nonprofits better define their needs and connecting with organizations that can fulfill those needs. Taproot’s new interactive tool allows nonprofit users to browse the most common pro bono projects and learn about the scope of each project as well as the benefits, risks, and skills necessary to ensure successful engagements. And to facilitate connections with pro bono providers, Taproot has partnered with LinkedIn to open up the pool of resources available to nonprofits.
This new platform is just one more step towards realizing Taproot’s original mission. As Hurst puts it, when he founded the organization, “I saw the barriers that nonprofits face and wanted to scale the impact they’re reaching for in society. I realized that yes, money’s an issue, but a huge part of the problem is the lack of access to talent, the functional talent that is really needed to scale an organization. And so Taproot came out of that entrepreneurial “ah ha!” moment, from seeing that we could create a parallel philanthropic marketplace, a consulting marketplace of talent.”
Taproot’s latest step is to increase its arsenal of powerful new online tools as well as its advocacy. For example, Taproot recently helped to publish Powered by Pro Bono: A Nonprofit’s Guide to Scoping, Securing, Managing, and Scaling Pro Bono Resources, which shares advice for nonprofits that Taproot garnered from serving 1,600 nonprofits, training 13,500 professionals, and designing 20 corporate pro bono programs. And Taproot is also launching the Pro Bono Pledge, a web-based advocacy campaign to enlist professionals to donate their talents through the Taproot Foundation and, more importantly, to flex their social entrepreneurial muscle, help build pro bono programs, and challenge their professions to adopt pro bono service as a core value. The Pro Bono Pledge takes a grassroots approach to empower professionals, not just companies, to lead the effort to make pro bono a core part of business.
Taproot and other pro bono advocates hope to establish pro bono volunteering as “the new normal” in workplaces everywhere. Given the profound benefits that pro bono offers to professionals and nonprofits alike, I’m rooting for the continued success of this exciting movement across the world.