Imagining a Pro Bono World

Why do lawyers get to have all the fun?When most people hear the words “pro bono,” they think of lawyers. It’s certainly true that the legal profession does a great job of encouraging and facilitating pro bono programs and participation among its members.

According to a report by the ABA Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service in 2009, 90% of attorneys indicated they had provided legal services for free over the previous year. Aaron Hurst, founder and president of the Taproot Foundation, mentioned this in his recent FastCo.Exist article, pointing out that “it is rare for a nonprofit to pay for legal services or go without them.”

Hurst then asked the important and logical question: Why do lawyers get to have all the fun? Shouldn’t other industry associations be pushing pro bono as hard as the ABA does? What if fields like marketing, design and technology had the same convention? This, he explained was the basis for founding Taproot, and for the important work they’re doing to make pro bono service as prevalent in all the business professions as it is today in the legal profession.

The article, and Hurst’s questions, captured my imagination. What if EVERY other profession had the same conventions? Not just business fields, but other skill-based industries such as plumbing and electrical, food service, health and fitness, transportation management, or even interior design?

Imagine if nonprofits never had to pay to leverage any of these professional, highly trained skills? For most organizations, it would be a game changer. It would dramatically increase the capacity of nonprofits to impact communities and address the world’s most pressing problems. And in the process, the corporate world would truly be leveraging its resources for good.

Now it’s time to stop daydreaming, and start working on making this a reality. VolunteerMatch took a big step in the right direction when we released the new Listing Wizard late last year, making it easier for volunteers (including your employees,) with specific skills to connect with nonprofits that need their help. Organizations like Taproot and Catchafire are playing an important role by facilitating and managing these connections.

What can you do to bring us closer to this dream of universal pro bono? On the corporate side of things, providing structured pro bono volunteer opportunities for employees is a great way to encourage them to use their skills for good. Offering paid time off for this type of volunteering is important, also. For example, according to the ABA report mentioned above, attorneys who provided pro bono legal service were significantly more likely to indicate that their employers encourage pro bono service than were those who did not provide pro bono help.

You can leverage tools like VolunteerMatch’s Special Event Manager to organize large volunteer campaigns and big all-company events. This will further involve your employees in their communities.

If you’re interested in other ways to build effective, impactful pro bono programs, contact our Consulting team to have a conversation.

Does your company have a pro bono program? Tell us about it!

Photo by slgkgc.

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