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Six Common Pro Bono Models

July 20, 2012

(The following post by the Taproot Foundation's Aaron Hurst was adapted from the book Powered by Pro Bono: The Nonprofits Step-by-Step Guide to Scoping, Securing, Managing, and Scaling Pro Bono Resources, to be published in September by Jossey-Bass. To read the previous post in Aaron's series, click here.)

Pb2_cover_235When we think about pro bono services, we typically picture teams of business professionals doing projects for a nonprofit -- building a new Web site, helping to create a strategic plan for an organization, and so on. In reality, there's an incredibly diverse array of models through which nonprofits can receive pro bono resources. Here are the six most common to help you think about how you can best leverage pro bono to boost your mission.

Loaned employee. An individual employee drops some of his or other duties to pursue a pro bono project. For companies and professional services firms, this typically requires a sanctioned and compensated leave of absence. Pfizer, for example, provides employees with three- to six-month sabbaticals so they can donate their services to nonprofits.

Functional coaching and mentoring. This model pairs a subject-matter expert with an employee at a nonprofit organization who can benefit from his/her functional expertise. Gap Inc. has their corporate HR executives mentor senior HR staff at their nonprofit grantees.

Team-driven projects. Individuals come together on teams to deliver a product based on the needs of the nonprofit partner, with each individual having specific roles and responsibilities. This type of pro bono engagement typically requires a dedicated project manager on the team as well as several specialists. An example: Bain & Company, provides $40 million a year in pro bono consulting advice to nonprofits.

Open-ended outsourcing. An organization makes its services available to a specific number of nonprofit organizations on an ongoing, as-needed basis. For example, a professional marketing association might serve as the general marketing outsourcer for a nonprofit agency. This is also a common approach in law firms that provide ongoing pro bono support to nonprofit organizations.

Signature issue. An organization combines formal pro bono work with other corporate assets to leverage significant internal resources toward solving a specific social issue. Typically, a signature-issue campaign represents a significant and longstanding partnership between an organization and a nonprofit client or clients. Deloitte, for example, adopted College Summit as a signature-issue partner and has provided the education organization with everything from a seat on its board to hundreds of thousands of dollars in pro bono services over the years.

Individual help. Help donated by a single employee is probably the most common form of pro bono service. It could be a photographer who donates a shoot or a facilitator willing to help out with an organization's board retreat. LinkedIn is a great resource for finding this kind of pro bono support.

There is no shortage of highly skilled people able and willing to help nonprofit organizations on a pro bono basis, and the ways they are able do that are limited only by our imaginations. Check back next week for more tips and techniques for scoping projects and securing pro bono services for your organization, and be sure to visit the Taproot Web site for more information about the growing pro bono marketplace.

-- Aaron Hurst

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