6 Quotes About Pro Bono to Inspire Your Volunteer Program

Pro Bono Week 2015!It’s Pro Bono Week 2015And here at VolunteerMatch, that has us jumping for joy. Because we love pro bono and every chance we get to talk it up.

Why all the hype about pro bono volunteering? Well, when volunteer roles align with professional expertise, everyone wins.

Nonprofits gain expertise they might otherwise have been unable to afford. Volunteers gain new ways to practice and sharpen their skills and can connect with their communities in meaningful ways. Corporate volunteer programs get refreshed, fulfilled employees with new perspectives and heightened skill-sets.

VolunteerMatch's book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0, includes 3 chapters on pro bono volunteerism.In our book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, we dedicate three entire chapters to pro bono and skilled volunteering. Haven’t read the book yet? It’s easy to order your copy today at a 25% off discount. In the meantime, we’ve pulled a few of our favorite quotes in honor of Pro Bono Week 2015:

Imagine if you were adding an additional 5 to 20 percent in value to your budget through high-quality, high-value pro bono? This is the potential of pro bono today. – Meg Garlinghouse & Alison Dorsey, LinkedIn for Good

Although more than 92 percent of nonprofits say that they would like to use a skilled volunteer, only 8 percent actively do. – Meg Garlinghouse & Alison Dorsey, LinkedIn for Good

Like all good initiatives, successful pro bono projects start with a clear need, articulated in a way that shows measurable goals and endpoints. – Alethea Hannemann, The Taproot Foundation

You want your pro bono consultants to treat you like a paying client, so you need to treat them as if you are paying, with all the expectations and responsibilities that go along with it. – Alethea Hannemann, The Taproot Foundation

Despite a mountain of evidence that workers love engaging their professional skills in doing good, most nonprofits say they simply aren’t getting enough pro bono help. – Deirdre White & Amanda MacArthur, PYXERA Global

Remember you have something precious to offer a rich and diverse community of pro bono professionals who want to give back: a meaningful and authentic experience! If you take time to invest upfront in pro bono, you can create the kind of experience that your volunteers will be hungry for and want to repeat! – Deirdre White & Amanda MacArthur, PYXERA Global

Want more? Order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0 today at 25% off. And don’t forget to help us celebrate pro bono week by following along with #PBW15 on Twitter and sharing your stories.

Pro Bono Week Special: How the California State Library Engages Pro Bono Volunteers

Celebrate Pro Bono Week 2015 with VolunteerMatchStory #1:

When the California State Library began growing its volunteer program, it quickly became clear to Carla Lehn, Library Programs Consultant, that she didn’t have enough time to do everything that needed to be done.

She knew if she could find someone to take a few responsibilities off her plate, then together they could go so much further. So, she created a position description for Assistant Volunteer Coordinator and posted it on VolunteerMatch.

Kellie Dawson was looking for something to get her out of the house a bit that fit her skills, background and interests when she came across Carla’s listing. Voila! Kellie has since rolled out two majors shifts in process for the CA State Library volunteer program, and says, “I will not give this position up as long as it’s there for me.”

Story #2:

When the 30th anniversary of the CA State Library’s literacy program approached, Carla realized she didn’t have the expertise or resources to run a statewide PR campaign around this event.

Dan Dement was in the process of starting his own PR agency, and he knows that “Volunteering is good career karma.” And the issue of literacy struck a chord with him. “It was a wonderful experience all the way through,” reflects Dan on this pro bono project.

Story #3:

Carla was looking for someone to help her up her social media game for the CA State Library’s literacy program, in order to find volunteers and raise awareness for the cause.

Leila Ertel has a background in social media marketing, but when she moved to Sacramento and switched jobs, this was no longer a part of her job. So, by volunteering with CA State Library, she is still able to use those skills. A win-win!

Why are we sharing these stories today?

Celebrate Pro Bono Week 2015 with VolunteerMatch!It’s Pro Bono Week 2015! 

Pro bono a special form of volunteering where people use their professional career skills for a good cause, and Pro Bono Week is a global campaign to celebrate and encourage these volunteer activities.

Help us celebrate this week:

Does your organization engage pro bono volunteers? Share your story in the comments below!

Top 3 Things I Learned About Pro Bono from the First Twitter Talk Tuesday

This post also appears on Volunteering is CSR.

Tweet, Twitter, Bird, Blue, Twig, Branch, Green, HillsOn Tuesday, November 19, my team and I rounded up with coffee in our hands and entered the Twittersphere to begin our first Twitter Talk Tuesday. As an intern at VolunteerMatch I was able to be an integral part of the project. Our first topic was pro bono and skilled volunteering.

To be honest, I am not an expert in this field and I was a little intimidated to be a participating member of Twitter Talk Tuesday. Here are some of the things I learned throughout the hour-long chat:

Setting the foundation of a pro bono project

We started the chat off talking about how the initial conversation between a nonprofit and a company can be complicated concerning pro bono projects. Many of the responses we received said that both parties need to be clear on what the goal is, how to efficiently reach that goal and provide guidelines for how they will work together. Some even provided links with resources to additional help.

Mutually beneficial pro bono relationships

Later in the Twitter chat we discussed who benefits from a pro bono project more: a nonprofit, volunteers, or the corporation. When I was first thinking about this subject I had immediately come to the conclusion that it was a win-win-win situation. However, some of our participants shed light on a few problems involved. I learned that yes, ideally pro bono projects should benefit all parties, but sometimes the needs of the company can overpower the needs of the organization.

On the other hand, those that successfully create a pro bono project allow for nonprofits to get what they need without having to pay for it, employees get to utilize and even sharpen their skills, and corporations increase their impact for good.

Planning a pro bono project

We also discussed how organizations can plan for pro bono projects. An important realization is that there isn’t one right process; each project is unique to the particular needs of the nonprofit and company involved. The planning team must be flexible and be willing to put in the hard work that goes into pro bono projects. In addition to this, it is equally important to know what kind of skills the community and the corporate employees have to offer.

There are a lot of different aspects that go into these projects, but the outcome is definitely worth it. A running theme throughout our Twitter chat was that these projects are unique and must be treated as such. There must be plenty of flexibility, research, communication and cooperation in order to have a successful outcome.

Overall, the first Twitter Talk Tuesday was incredibly helpful and gave me some insight as to how nonprofits and corporations come together for a pro bono project to help out those in need.

Be on the look out for our next Twitter Talk Tuesday! Keep the conversation going about pro bono volunteering using the hashtag #vmtalk. Tweet you soon!

Pro Bono at Conferences: Reflections of an Expert After Nonprofit Boot Camp

Public relations pro Jennifer Kern hangs out at the VolunteerMatch booth during Nonprofit Boot Camp, 6/12/13, in Silicon Valley.

I go to a lot of conferences and so I know it’s not always easy to get the help I’m looking for when I’m there.

For example, I may not know anyone else at an event — putting the onus on me to reach out and network just to feel a human connection.

If I attend a panel or a  workshop it might have interesting content, but the speakers don’t have the time or flexibility to make it especially relevant for my needs.

And, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s just hard to feel at home in a big room full of strangers.

Last week the much-loved – and much-missed – Nonprofit Boot Camp series returned for the first time in three years. As part of the program, VolunteerMatch teamed up with the Silicon Valley chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals to coordinate a series of one-on-one “Ask The Expert” consultations taking place throughout the day.

Attendees could sit for 30 minutes at a time with one of 25 experts in volunteer engagement, marketing, finance, fundraising, technology and other areas of nonprofit management. Cool, right?

I jumped at the opportunity — not only to put VolunteerMatch’s muscle behind helping the sessions be a success, but also to volunteer as an expert myself. What better way to help attendees have a terrific experience and while also putting our money where our mouth is about the value of pro bono service?

What Constitutes Pro Bono at a Conference?

These days most conferences can’t afford fees for panelists, moderators and often even keynote speakers. So in essence many of the thought leaders who appear on the program at our favorite conferences are working “for free.” But there’s usually an unspoken quid pro quo: Come talk about what you do and think, and we’ll promote you as a superstar in your field.

But volunteering as an expert in a one-on-one session setting is different. Like so much pro bono service, it involves a lot of listening. You tailor your deliverables to a specific organization. And you accept the fact that success in the engagement will be defined as much by the attendee’s involvement as by your own.

That means there’s some risk involved – it’s a collaboration. Even so, there are tons of reasons why offering free expert one-on-one consulting makes sense for pretty much any conference:

  • For attendees, getting free one-on-one consulting allows you to get custom help, create a relationship with an expert in the field, and come away from the event feeling like you got deep-dive support on the issues you face on the job.
  • For experts, volunteering with one-on-one consulting at an event is a great way to demonstrate a deep commitment to advancing the field, exercise your listening and presentation skills, potentially develop new business leads, and meet other leading consultants and practitioners.
  • For conference producers, adding a free one-on-one consulting element to your events is a terrific way to add an element of diversity and depth to the content program, widen the network of experts who are likely to help promote your event beforehand, and facilitate authentic relationship building.

Talk about win-win-win. PR guy Dan Cohen, principal of Full Court Press Communications and one of last week’s volunteer consultants, said it best from an expert’s perspective:

“Aside from the consultations, there was amazing networking among my peers.  While our firm has some very good tools in our toolbox, the expert tables were packed with a complete set of solutions provided by folks who think like we do.  We’ve already included one of the peer firms in a proposal.”

My own experience at Boot Camp was also great.The four or five folks I consulted with presented different challenges. One consultee was struggling to inspire volunteers to her wild cat conservation organization, who seemed to all want to get out in the field and count cougars even though most of the need was in the office. Another woman I met with managed volunteers for a retail store that sold second-hand items to benefit a nonprofit. How could they build a cadre of happy volunteer cashiers?

I felt this last consultation went well, but when I got an email from her the next day I knew for sure: “Your input on our volunteer program…was incredibly valuable,” she wrote.

Equally important, I was able to spend my breaks networking and making new friends with dozens of other experts, all of whom have tremendous knowledge and big hearts to share.

Hats off to all the amazingly talented folks who volunteered their time as experts at Nonprofit Boot Camp last week:

  • Hallie Baron, Hallie Baron Consulting LLC
  • Leyna Bernstein, Leyna Bernstein Consulting
  • Dan Cohen, Full Court Press Communications
  • Stephanie Demos, Alum Rock Counseling Center
  • Eric Facas, Media Cause
  • Jennifer Kern, PR & Company
  • Karen Kwan, Community School of Music and Arts
  • Jessica LaBarbera, Nonprofit Finance Fund
  • Beverly Lenihan, Reesults Consulting
  • David Livingston Styers, Center for Volunteer and Nonprofit Leadership
  • Sara Morency, Sara Morency Coaching & Consulting
  • Suzanne Oehler, Yapper Girl
  • Aaron Pava, CivicActions
  • Anna Quinones, Independent Consultant
  • David Russo, American Cancer Society
  • Carla Schlemminger, Socialbrite
  • Adam Straus, Straus Events
  • Sharon Svensson, Essex & Drake Fund Raising Counsel
  • Alisa Tantraphol, Second Harvest Food Bank
  • Connie Wang, LinkedIn

What do you think? Share your thoughts and experiences about pro bono consulting at conferences and events below.

Scaling Pro Bono – Evolving Your Nonprofit for High Impact

Editor’s Note: In conjunction with National Pro Bono Celebration, Engaging Volunteers has launched a 5-part exploration of best practices in pro bono volunteer engagement through the lens of the experts at Taproot Foundation.

Our friends at Taproot have just released a new book, Powered by Pro Bono, to give nonprofit leaders guidance on creating successful pro bono engagements. Each week we’re giving away a copy of Powered by Pro Bono with each new blog post on the subject. Got a great tip or story on how to engage pro bono volunteers? Share it below! We’ll send a copy to our favorite entry.

The title of Powered by Pro Bono is no joke: its authors at the Taproot Foundation really are encouraging nonprofit readers to imagine a new future for their organizations — one where they have the capacity to tap into a wellspring of skilled professional services as needs evolve. And not just for the occasional pro bono project either, but for a wide variety of engagements across all functions as needs arise.

In this, my last post in this series, I’ll review this final audacious challenge from Powered By Pro Bono. It’s an all-encompassing vision, one that replaces recognition of financial support as central to your organization with the recognition that pro bono support is just as crucial. Is your organization ready to go there? Most are not, but Powered By Pro Bono argues that within 2-3 years of focused intention and hard work, it’s likely you could be.

The vision of an organization that is truly powered by pro bono assumes not only a deep and enduring interest in your mission by today’s skilled professionals, but also a commitment to truly “scaling” both the role of pro bono at your organization, and also your organization’s social impact.

“Scaling” is what happens when an organization truly makes scopingsecuring and managing pro bono projects part of its DNA – it’s the final stage in development of the pro bono organization.

The Four Stages of Pro Bono Development

To understand the promise and challenges of scaling pro bono, we need to know what it means. Taproot Foundation identifies the following growth path for organizations that practice pro bono:

  • Level One (Beginner) — The nonprofit has tried a project or two with mixed success, but doesn’t yet really understand the best practices in pro bono engagement. The big opportunity here is to get some training and learn how the parts of pro bono come together.
  • Level Two (Practicing Pro Bono) – Pro bono is underway in various projects, but it’s often confined to one department… the one with the team that “gets it” (often in communications or HR, owing to the nature of their work and orientation). But in this phase a cultural shift is already underway, especially because you now have internal champions with experience in pro bono. But growth still needs to happen in the form of a vision for where all this pro bono is going and a more proactive approach to forecasting pro bono activities that should take place 6-12 months down the road.
  • Level Three (Organization-Wide Adoption) – Pro bono begins to be adopted throughout the organization, with the early team members now assuming roles of mentors. The organization is now investing in systems to track, manage and recognize pro bono support. The big opportunity now is to articulate a vision of what becoming “powered by pro bono” can do to unify the team further, improve ties with your board, and help you recruit or develop staff members who can help take things to the next level.
  • Level Four (Powered by Pro Bono) – Your organization can engage pro bono across most or all of its functions, you know how to maximize those engagements, and you are comfortable with the most complex of pro bono formats.

In each of these phases there are opportunities to continue to define how you use pro bono and to grow as a team. I’ll spend the rest of this article exploring some of the tools and considerations that can come up on your path.

The Power of Internal Trainers and Mentors

You’ve heard the word “intrapreneur”? That’s when an employee creates a program or starts an activity without necessarily being required to do so. At most nonprofits, pro bono begins through the work of an intrapreneur who is willing to try a new approach to getting work done.

Through these stages of development, it’s clear that individuals who are on staff can serve as critical drivers of cultural change at nonprofits. It’s often a single staff person who first is inspired to try pro bono, who creates that first relationship, and who wants to share the outcomes and experience with others. This also applies to teams, groups of people at your organization that become fired up about the potential.

Eventually, these are the folks who lead the organization’s efforts around pro bono and provide real mentorship on the topic.

Who on your staff is inspired by pro bono today? What can your organization do to help them succeed in creating cultural change? Here are some ideas:

  • Listen to what they are saying.
  • Get them training around pro bono best practices.
  • Help celebrate, reward and recognize their achievements.
  • Encourage them to mentor the rest of the organization in ways that make sense.
  • Ask for their help in forecasting future pro bono needs.

The Power of Forecasting

I’ve already covered how to identify current pro bono needs and secure currently available pro bono resources.  For pro bono beginners, these are ways for an organization to “near-cast” its pro bono needs. But as nonprofits get more sophisticated with pro bono engagement they’ll want to take a longer view… one that fits more neatly in the year-long budget and program planning framework that governs so much of the organization’s life: forecasting.

Forecasting pro bono allows an organization to plan for pro bono projects in a longer timeline that takes into account the team’s capacity to manage pro bono as well as the availability of willing pro bono resources.

So, for example, if you know in December that you’ll need a new mini website for a community safety program in Q3 of the following year, you can decide now if it’s the right kind of project for pro bono, and even begin talking with your existing pro bono partners about whether it’s the kind of project they’d like to take on.

Powered By Pro Bono suggests you organize forecast pro bono projects into four buckets of priority each single quarter: open “to-do” list items, urgent items, short-term priority items, and long-term priority items. They can all be met with different forms of pro bono and launched in accordance to different lead times.

The Power of Systems

Most organizations have donor management systems. Some have volunteer management systems. Far fewer have pro bono management systems. But as an organization evolves into one that can scale its mission via pro bono, having core systems in place to sustain and grow pro bono support is essential.

For me, the surprise of Powered By Pro Bono is the suggestion that these systems go beyond a simple database of pro bono projects and key contacts. For example, a well designed pro bono engagement management database should also include fields for lessons learned during the project.

Here are some other systems that Taproot Foundation recommends nonprofits create on their way to becoming powered by pro bono:

  • Standardized staff training – As pro bono becomes a deeper part of a nonprofit’s culture, it becomes more and more important to get the whole team on board, especially when they first come to work for you.
  • Standardized recognition process – Recognition activities that work to connect volunteers to the meaning and impact of their work should be shared across the organization. Here’s a link to our articles on volunteer recognition.
  • Reusable evaluation tools – Evaluation and debriefing of projects following completion are some of the few tools you’ll have to improve your pro bono process from project to project. Creating systems that allow for teams to do so with a consistent framework that is custom designed for the organization is important for this.
  • Track and value pro bono efforts – What is the comparable monetary value of the project? How will you share that in your annual report or list of key contributors? The more consistent you can make this process, the more likely it is to be useful. Even if your pro bono consultant(s) haven’t been tracking their time, you can still use typical industry rates to assign a dollar value to the great work that they’ve done.

These systems are not necessarily expensive, and they can help your organization process each project as part of a connected whole – which is the best way to improve your pro bono engagement over time.

The Power of Partnerships

As your organization evolves into one that is comfortable with pro bono, it’s likely that you’ll grow tired of recruiting a new consultant or consulting group with every engagement. In fact, it makes a lot of sense to continue to work with the same consultant(s) as much as possible. As their experience with your mission and team deepens, so will the work. Not only that, the relationship is more likely to lead to other forms of commitment or support, including in-kind and cash.

Powered By Pro Bono recommends that organizations consider having the “talk” with pro bono partners who have already worked out well.

That is, when you like what you’ve found, don’t be afraid to address head on the idea of a long-term partnership together. By directly addressing what both groups truly desire — a deep and committed relationship built on purpose, meaning and collaboration —  you’ll be able to meet each other’s needs even as those needs evolve over time.

This Week: Win A Copy of Powered by Pro Bono

Is your organization Powered by Pro Bono? Do you have pro bono stories or advice to share? Add it to the comments below. Our favorite story each week will win a free copy of Powered by Pro Bono, courtesy of Taproot Foundation.