Post by Aaron Hurst, founder of The Taproot Foundation, a globally recognized entrepreneur who works to create communities that are empowered to realize their potential. He is the CEO of Imperative, a technology platform that enables people to discover, connect and act on what gives them purpose in their work.
What would your nonprofit do with an additional 20% in your budget? What if you could achieve that through securing professional support from marketing, information technology, human resources, finance, and strategy professionals? Are you still not convinced that pro bono service is the rocket fuel you need to achieve your mission? While there are numerous reasons in which pro bono service can positively impact your business, here are nine reasons that might just change your mind.
1. You Need a Strong Voice
There is a critical need for nonprofits to make themselves heard in an increasingly noisy world. It is like an arms race and you can't afford to pay retail for the weapons needed to win anymore. Pro bono resources can help nonprofits create key messages and visual identities, brand strategies, attractive, and user-friendly websites, print collateral, and more, helping them to develop a clear and powerful voice that engages broad stakeholders in their mission and reaches across organizations to make a collective impact.
2. The Best Nonprofits are Doing It
Some will say that pro bono is only for the failing nonprofits who 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 US; they've worked with over 6,000 young people nationwide and have sites in 11 cities. They produce very successful outcomes (84% of program graduates are working or in school full-time within four months of graduation). They operate with a staff of over 300 people and an annual budget of over $40 million, and have twice been voted one of the top 15 nonprofits to work for in the US. And they've been pro bono believers since the beginning. Pro bono support from Alta Communications helped kick off the initial venture, and over the years Gerald has successfully locked in pro bono support from countless sources including New Profit and Monitor Group - whose four strategic planning processes have helped shape it into the organization it is today.
3. Leadership / Talent
Nonprofits are the people sector. Nonprofits succeed when they have great people and great leadership. This takes investment. You need the systems, training, and infrastructure to get the right board members, employees and volunteers into the right roles. Pro bono projects help nonprofits build the necessary structures for talent retention and development, setting appropriate goals and performance management processes that ensure timely feedback and strategic staff growth.
4. Generate 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.
5. Source of Board Members
When an executive works with you on substantive issues as a pro bono consultant, they often fall in love and want to make a longer term commitment. When they join a board, they come to the table already deeply engaged and knowledgeable about your organization. These individuals most often take on the most critical board leadership roles.
6. Measurement and Management
High-performing organizations are able to track their programs and outcomes and constantly adapt based on their learning. The systems necessary to do this well are expensive to build, but pro bono resources can make it affordable to even small nonprofits.
7. $15 Billion in Pro Bono Services are Donated Every Year
Pro bono resources are roughly 4x all corporate cash giving combined, and come in many forms. AIGA calls on all designers to donate 5% of their time pro bono: 286,000 hours per year. Marketing and PR professionals donate 623,000 hours per year. Need a strategic plan? Management analysts donate 746,000 per year. Software engineers and programmers, database administrators and HR professionals donate close to 1 million hours per year each. What does your organization need?
8. Organizations are Getting More Complex
As the nonprofit sector grows and develops, organizations are increasingly transforming into complex organizations with the programming necessary to meet the diverse needs of their communities. Nonprofit leaders are always striving to do more, but resources are limited. How can they meet this potential? Pro bono services can provide top-tier expertise that will strengthen their organization's structure, and support the talent they have on staff. High-priced consultants aren't the only way to get excellent people in the door to augment the skills on the nonprofit team. There are many professionals out there who love what they do, do it extremely well, and actively want to use their skills to give back. This is pro bono.
9. Professional Growth
Working with professionals from a different sector who are not inside your bubble will help you question your assumptions and redefine what is possible for you and your organization. There is a learning opportunity on both sides of the pro bono engagement, and the relationships that form serve to deepen partnerships across sector lines.
Just think of all your nonprofit organization could achieve if 20% of your budget was covered through pro bono services. It should be a goal to reach pro bono services that amount to that; this way, you are assured that all of your needs are being met with the help and expertise of industry-specific professionals. It really is beneficial to ensure your business plan becomes powered by pro bono services.