Pro Bono and Skilled Volunteers

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It used to be that when a nonprofit was offered pro bono services, the nonprofit and volunteer were on their own. As a result, “pro bono” too often resulted in unintentional missed opportunities and dropped balls, and the reputation of pro bono services suffered. Now there is new recognition that a structured deployment of “skilled volunteers,” through supportive pro bono programs, is an effective strategy for nonprofit capacity building.

Trend: Pro bono service providers for nonprofits

What’s trending? There is a growing number of nonprofits dedicated to providing or coordinating pro bono assistance to other nonprofits, by matching skilled volunteers with a nonprofit’s project, along with on-going support before, during, and after a project’s completion, to ensure a successful end-result, for both volunteer and nonprofit.

Supportive pro bono programs are designed to “screen and match” so that the pro bono volunteer has the requisite skills and experience needed for the specific project at hand, and similarly that the nonprofit “tees up” the project appropriately for the volunteer. Ideally, the pro bono provider also makes sure that any nuances peculiar to the nonprofit’s particular environment are explained to the skilled volunteer, who often is well-qualified, but usually more experienced working in a for-profit environment. Supportive pro bono programs also make sure that the pro bono project is completed in a timely manner, and that the outcome is satisfactory for the nonprofit. The entire process provides accountability, because both the nonprofit and volunteer have an advocate, and complaint mechanisms are available if there are challenges along the way.

Where to find pro bono assistance or volunteer opportunities

Pro bono used to be available primarily for individuals, not nonprofits; thankfully, charitable nonprofits how have more opportunities to find pro bono skilled volunteers. You might start with your state association of nonprofits, but other local organizations may also be able to refer you to an appropriate pro bono program that serves nonprofits. Ask your local United Way, community foundation, or regional association of grantmakers. The Encore Talent Toolkit is a resource for learning about the benefits of “encore talent” as well as how to tap into the skilled pro bono or paid talent of experienced workers. Taproot Foundation recently released Taproot+, a platform that matches nonprofits with pro bono workers. Organizations post four-to-six week projects, indicating the requirements of the project and whether or not it can be performed remotely. Potential skilled volunteers scroll through the interface, applying to the pro bono projects that interest them. The applicants are screened in an interview process by the nonprofit.

Regional and national supported pro bono programs include:

Legal pro bono providers

In addition to forging personal relationships with attorneys and law firms that are willing to provide pro bono assistance to nonprofits, we suggest checking with your state bar association or this list for local and statewide programs that offer pro bono assistance to tax-exempt organizations.

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