VolunteerMatch’s new book, Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World, features chapters from 35 experts in the field of volunteer engagement.
First of all, what is your chapter about?
Over the past few years, pro bono has grown across sectors. In order for it to be an effective resource, it’s important to understand why pro bono is different from traditional “hearts-and-hands” volunteering.
Hearts-and-hands volunteering is when people give back through non-job-related skills, such as serving at a food kitchen or cleaning a park. With traditional volunteering, quantity over quality is usually okay.
With pro bono, quality is more critical. Pro bono asks volunteers to use job-related expertise to build capacity at an organization, and is grounded in a mutually beneficial experience for the volunteer and organization. Our chapter explains how recognizing the mutual benefits of pro bono can help a nonprofit get the expertise it needs.
Why is this topic important?
In order for pro bono to work, there needs to be an exchange of resources – a skill or expertise the volunteer can contribute along with a matching need for the nonprofit. To succeed, both need to develop trust.
Corporate pro bono programs can be very powerful. According to a study on skills-based volunteerism by True Impact, 142% of volunteers were more likely to report job-related skills gained than traditional volunteers. In addition, pro bono can be a very successful leadership training experience.
Explain your background on this topic. (In other words, what makes you a “volunteer engagement expert?”)
Deirdre White: I serve as the CEO of PYXERA Global, where I lead a team that creates and executes best practices in Global Pro Bono to benefit global corporations, local government, and nonprofits worldwide. PYXERA Global recently received the CECP Director Award of Excellence for JIVA, an integrated community development program made possible by pro bono work. I have several decades working on the ground, virtually, and overseeing pro bono projects with an emphasis on mutual benefit, sustainability, and inclusion.
Amanda MacArthur: I am Vice President of Global Pro Bono and Engagement at PYXERA Global. I lead the Global Pro Bono team along with PYXERA Global’s MBAs Without Borders division. I specialize in designing, implementing and measuring the impact of skills-based volunteer programs with a focus on leadership development, as well as creating sustainable impact.
What did you learn and/ or struggle with when writing your chapter?
At times, it can be difficult to determine how our extensive work in international settings is applicable to US nonprofits. We reflected on how to take our process of designing and implementing programs for companies and local clients, and make it applicable for nonprofits not working within the framework of a larger pro bono program – who might be looking for pro bono expertise independently.
We thought about the way PYXERA Global acts as a neutral third party to assess an organization’s needs and how to customize that to help nonprofits do this for themselves. We also had an absolutely wonderful editor, Robert Rosenthal, who helped us clarify our thinking and approach in these areas.
What is the one piece of advice you would give volunteer managers to take with them to the future?
Always practice purposeful engagement. In other words, enter into relationships with individuals and organizations across sectors intentionally and with the understanding that you are both on equal footing. When looking for pro bono volunteers, be strategic and don’t compromise. Know what you have to give, but also know what success will look like.
To read Deirdre and Amanda’s full chapter, How to Get the Right Pro Bono Expertise for the Job, order your copy of Volunteer Engagement 2.0: Ideas and Insights Changing the World today.