If you’ve been stung by a past pro bono partnership, you’re not alone. Powered by Pro Bono author Aaron Hurst has seen both the immense potential in pro bono services and the underwhelming outcomes nonprofits experience. These observations prompted Hurst to launch a movement through his Taproot Foundation. The goal? Reinvent how nonprofits go about engaging pro bono support. His book prescribes organizations follow his four stage process that’s been successfully tested with hundreds of pro bono partnerships.
We’re pleased to introduce our Page to Practice™ book feature of Powered by Pro Bono by Aaron Hurst, President and Founder of the Taproot Foundation. For the last 10 years, the Taproot Foundation has championed pro bono services throughout major communities in America with the goal of nonprofits leveraging millions of dollars in low-to-no-cost services that outpace philanthropic results.
One of the proven principles is to reach business professionals early in their careers. By doing so, they are instilled with an expectation of pro bono service for a lifetime. Consequently, an increase in the supply of donated expertise is available to the nonprofit sector. Thanks to this strategy and others explained in Hurst’s book, pro bono is becoming the norm in our society.
According to Hurst, 20 of the top 25 MBA programs in the country offer pro bono services. Additionally, the Foundation’s recent White House-adopted campaign, “A Billion + Change,” generated nearly two billion dollars in corporate pro bono service pledges. If you apply Hurst’s recommended framework, you can clearly benefit from this new talent strategy long-term. Join me in our author interview with Aaron when we ask about his views on pro bono work as well as the most common mistake to avoid.
CausePlanet: Thank you for this tremendous book and a great “hands-on guide” for revitalizing results-oriented pro bono partnerships. How does Taproot Foundation’s view of pro bono differ from what we’ve experienced in the past?
Hurst: Taproot dedicated most of its early years to making sure pro bono service could be provided in a reliable way. It’s definitely been a problem in the past, as evidenced by decades of one-off, inconsistent pro bono service. When we started up, nonprofits were reluctant to buy in, and we would hear nonprofit leaders voice their attitudes toward pro bono with gems like “you get what you pay for” or “the gift that keeps on taking.”
At the stage we’re at today, we have provided over 1,500 pro bono projects to nonprofits and have established best practices for the design and management process. We have a successful completion rate of over 95 percent, and these best practices are what we’ve tried to communicate in Powered by Pro Bono.
CausePlanet: What is the most common mistake nonprofit leaders make when engaging in a pro bono arrangement?
Hurst: Not treating it like a paid engagement. In a standard consulting engagement, clients will clearly define their need and make sure they’ve got the right team for the job. Nonprofit leaders are often too quick to say thank you before taking the time to evaluate. It’s important to check in regularly, hold the team accountable for content and deadlines, and give and receive feedback.
Watch for more interview excerpts with Aaron Hurst in next week’s blog post. For the complete interview and book synopsis, purchase our Page to Practice summary at the summary store or subscribe to our library of recommended reading. You can purchase the book, Powered by Pro Bono, at www.wiley.com. Apply for a service grant with the Taproot Foundation and launch your own pro bono partnership.
See also: Leveraging Good Will by Alice Korngold