7 posts categorized "Pro Bono"

An Alliance for Action — and a Safe Space for Conversations About Race

April 05, 2016

On Easter Sunday, my godson, Elijah, had his first encounter with the police. He is not yet three years old. His mother was pulled over because her Volkswagen Touareg has tinted windows. The tint is legal, and she wasn’t given a ticket. Nonetheless, in thinking about law enforcement and how to explain the situation to Elijah, we all grew anxious. We recognize that this will be one of many discussions we will need to have with him about the law, the police, and discrimination — simply because he is a black boy living in America.

Elijah_marisa_lee_for_PhilanTopicThe lessons we intended to teach Elijah on Easter — how to properly crack an Easter egg, why the Easter bunny brings baskets only to good little boys, and how Peeps expand dramatically in the microwave — were all interrupted by the lessons we felt compelled to start teaching him about what it means to be a black man in America. My cousin, Elijah's mother, is a critical care nurse, her husband a doctor. They live in an affluent neighborhood in Maryland. Yet I can't help but dread the day Elijah stops being seen as "adorable" and begins to be perceived as a "threat." What will we need to tell him then about how to behave in public? Will we stop him from wearing hooded sweatshirts so that others don't automatically think he's a "thug"? Will we tell him he can't run through his own neighborhood with his friends out of fear the police might see them and assume the worst?

Even if we teach him all the "right" things, and even if he actually listens (which, if he's anything like his godmother, he won't), we still won't be able to guarantee his safety. That's the concern that comes with being responsible for a young black man in America. I would never wish for Elijah to be white, but I do wish he didn't have to bear the burden of being a black boy. And the lack of control over the situation I feel surely is only a fraction of the anxiety that must haunt his parents — a shared anxiety that, despite their advanced degrees, fancy jobs, and above-average paychecks, will continue to fester as they, and I, work to guide Elijah safely into adulthood.

Continue reading »

9 Reasons to Become Powered by Pro Bono Services

July 08, 2014

Headshot_aaron_hurstWhat would your nonprofit do with an additional 20 percent in its budget? What if you could achieve that by securing professional support from marketing, information technology, human resources, finance, and strategy professionals? Still not convinced pro bono service is the rocket fuel you need to achieve your mission? While there are many ways in which pro bono can positively impact your organization, here are nine reasons guaranteed to change your mind.

1. You need a strong voice. In an increasingly noisy world, it's imperative nonprofits make themselves heard. Pro bono resources can help your organization create key messages and visual identities, brand strategies, attractive and user-friendly websites, compelling print collateral, and more -- all of which are critical if it hopes to develop a clear and powerful voice that engages a broad range of stakeholders and reaches across organizations to create impact.

2. The best nonprofits are doing it. Some will tell you pro bono is only for failing nonprofits that can't afford to pay for services. Gerald Chertavian, founder of Year Up, would say that such people "suffer from a severe lack of imagination." Year Up, as it happens, is one of the most successful nonprofits in the U.S. They've worked with more than six thousand young people nationwide and have sites in eleven cities. They produce very successful outcomes (84 percent of program graduates are in school or working full-time within four months of graduation). They operate with a staff of more than three hundred people and an annual budget of over $40 million and have twice been voted one of the top fifteen nonprofits in the U.S. to work for. And they've been pro bono believers since the beginning. Pro bono support from Alta Communications helped kick off the initial Year Up venture, and over the years Gerald has successfully locked in pro bono support from countless sources, including New Profit Inc. and Monitor Deloitte, whose advice with respect to strategic planning helped shape the organization into the powerhouse it is today.

3. It helps foster talent and leadership. The nonprofit sector is the people sector. Nonprofits succeed when they have great people and great leadership. And that requires investment. You need systems, training, and infrastructure to get board members, employees, and volunteers into the right roles. Pro bono projects can help nonprofits build the necessary structures for talent retention and development, as well as for setting appropriate goals and performance management processes that lead to strategically aligned growth and staff development.

4. It generates significant corporate support. Many companies are much more likely to become large donors if they have employees deeply engaged in your mission. Companies like Deloitte hugely favor their pro bono partners over other grantees when it comes to providing significant financial support.

Continue reading »

5 Ways to Engage Finance Professionals in Pro Bono Service

September 29, 2012

(The following post by Aaron Hurst, president of the Taproot Foundation, was adapted from Powered by Pro Bono: The Nonprofits Step-by-Step Guide to Scoping, Securing, Managing, and Scaling Pro Bono Resources. In his previous post, Hurst weighed in on the value of "pre-mortems.")

Pro_bono_poweredNonprofit economics differ pretty significantly from the for-profit kind. For one thing, tools like a balance sheet or a profit-and-loss statement don't carry nearly as much weight in a not-for-profit setting as they do in the business world. Nonprofit organizations also have to follow specific rules and regulations related to their tax-exempt status. Despite these differences, nonprofits are learning how to boost their capacity and effectiveness by engaging accounting and finance professionals in their work. The fact that there are some 1.8 million accounting and finance professionals in the U.S., and that many of them are looking for ways to make an impact in their communities, is a huge plus for the sector.

With that in mind, here are five things finance and accounting professionals often are willing to do for nonprofits on a pro-bono basis:

1. Program-cost analysis. A program-cost-analysis project identifies the cost initiatives a nonprofit must define in order to answer a pressing strategic question. The first phase of any such project involves an in-depth examination of an organization's current finances to tease out cost factors relevant to those initiatives. After that, a comprehensive report which clearly lays out the full costs of taking on a particular initiative is prepared.

2. Internal financial controls assessment. Rigorous assessment of an organization's financial controls ensures that it is consistently recording financial transactions in an accurate fashion. These controls also help to minimize risk, including employee theft. The first step in developing an effective internal controls system is to identify areas where abuses or errors are likely to occur. Many accountants can provide you with a checklist of these areas, as well as questions to consider when you are planning your system.

Continue reading »

Conducting a Pre-Mortem

September 14, 2012

(The following post by Taproot Foundation president Aaron Hurst was adapted from Taproot's new book, Powered by Pro Bono: a Nonprofit's Step-by-Step Guide to Scoping, Securing, Managing and Scaling Pro Bono Resources, published by Jossey-Bass. In his last post, Aaron shared three tips to help prepare your team to be a great client for a pro bono engagement.)

Pro_bono_poweredA post-mortem is done by doctors after a patient dies to uncover the cause of the patient's demise. It's also a great way for doctors to learn and hold themselves accountable (although it doesn't do much good for the recently deceased on the table).

A pre-mortem, a process that increasingly is being adopted by project teams, takes the idea of the post-mortem and tries to apply it before a patient has died -- in other words, before it's too late to help. But of course in this case I'm not talking about an actual patient, but rather any project (internal or external) that involves a significant commitment of resources (monetary and/or human).

The pre-mortem process can be as simple as asking your team a few questions at the start of the project. For example: Assume that, six months down the road, everything that could go wrong on this project has gone wrong. What went wrong? And why?

Focus on the three to five most likely reasons that the project could fail or go off the rails. Then map back how you could have prevented these meltdowns. Finally, incorporate those changes into your project plan before you actually get to work. Might the patient still show up DOA? Sure. But the chances of that happening are much less likely than if you skip the pre-mortem altogether.

-- Aaron Hurst

Prepare Your Team for Pro Bono

September 04, 2012

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

Pro_bono_poweredYou just returned from a meeting with one of your largest corporate partners. In the meeting, you explored the possibility of your corporate partner doing a critical pro bono project for you in a few months. They seemed like they were pretty into it. Heading back to the office, you're fired up but want to make sure your staff is ready.

Here are three tips to prepare your team to be a great client for the pro bono engagement:

  1. Clearly define the connection of the project to your strategic plan and goals. Make sure you can make the case that it's a critical project for your organization.
  2. Identify who will be on your internal team and tasked with working with your corporate partner. Clearly define team members' roles and think about how you will recognize their work on the project, including the skills it will help them develop.
  3. Have your internal team meet and do a pre-mortem before the project kicks off.  Pre-mortems are a great way to expose team members' hopes and fears.

Much of the success of a pro bono project lies in how you prepare staff for the engagement. As with most things in life, what you get out of it is directly correlated to what you put into it.

Of course, companies also play an important role in getting their nonprofit partners ready for a pro bono engagement. If you’re a company looking for ways to get involved, check out our upcoming webinar on Nonprofit Readiness.

-- Aaron Hurst

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

Raising Pro Bono

July 13, 2012

(Aaron Hurst is the president and founder of the Taproot Foundation, a national nonprofit organization that makes business talent available to organizations working to improve society.)

WeHeartProBono_Med_SizeEvery year, professionals donate over $15 billion in pro bono services, from marketing and legal help to strategic planning support. That’s four times the amount donated by corporate foundations every year. And it’s a resource that every nonprofit needs to tap if it wants to realize its full potential.

This post is part of a new series designed to help your organization learn how to get its piece of the pro bono pie. Every month, my Taproot colleagues and I will share tips and insights into how to scope, secure, and manage pro bono resources that can help your organization get the support it needs to thrive.

Over the last ten years, the Taproot Foundation has not only provided pro bono services directly to nearly two thousand nonprofits, we’ve been hired to design pro bono programs for a range of leading companies, from Deloitte to Capital One. In the posts that follow this one, we will draw on that experience to provide insider information that helps position your organization to strategically leverage these resources.

We are also working hard to get more companies to create pro bono programs that provide donations of high-quality professional services to nonprofits like yours. Inspired by President John Kennedy's historic call to members of the legal community to use their professional skills in the battle for civil rights in the 1960s, I lobbied President George Bush in 2008 to create a parallel challenge to the business community, asking them to use their skills to help the nation in a time of critical need.

The result was the Billion + Change campaign, which was launched by Jean Case, co-founder and CEO of the Case Foundation and chair of the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation. Billion + Change has already secured pledges of $1.8 billion in formal pro bono resources for nonprofits from more than two hundred companies, and it aims to reach five hundred companies over the next eighteen months.

In my next post, I’ll focus on the most common forms of pro bono service offered today by companies looking to support the nonprofit sector and make a difference. In the meantime, be sure to visit our Web site for more information on how to donate your skills pro bono, find pro bono resources for your organization, or to learn more about the growing pro bono marketplace.

-- Aaron Hurst

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."

    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

Subscribe to PhilanTopic


Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Filter posts