We are a foundation without money. We actually give away something far more valuable.
I first joined Taproot Foundation in 2008 as an AmeriCorps VISTA. If you’re not familiar with the program, you essentially pledge to serve for 1 year, helping to build the capacity of a nonprofit organization while earning a modest stipend. Many thought I was crazy for signing up, but what made me want to take such a plunge was my fascination with Taproot’s network of volunteers (or “pro bono consultants” as we call them).
Let me break it down: Taproot Foundation doesn’t award monetary grants; we award Service Grants. Say you work at an organization that needs a new website. You could either apply to a regular foundation for money to hire consultants to then build the site or you could apply to Taproot for a Service Grant. Instead of giving you a check, we would give you a team of professionals that would each donate 100 hours of service to your organization and build your website for free! We also offer services in marketing, print, HR and strategy management– all services delivered pro bono by a team of professionals.)
If you are like me, some initial questions arise immediately: Say what? How does that work? Who are these people – these pro bono consultants? And what the heck is “pro bono” anyway?
Let’s start with that – “what the heck is pro bono anyway?”
Are you picturing a lawyer right now? Or maybe this guy?
Well, allow me to just polish my smarty pants glasses and dust off my handy dandy Latin dictionary to explain. You see, “pro bono” or pro bono publico means “for the public good” and it’s kind of a big deal. It’s actually what my whole organization is about.
If you have a job or internship, think about the skills you use every day in your role. Maybe you are in charge of writing communications, planning events, recruiting volunteers, or managing a team, etc. Now imagine you use those same skills you use in your career to build another organization’s capacity. Maybe you volunteer to plan a fundraising event or maybe you use your writing skills to edit their communications. Pro bono is more than just skills-based volunteering; it’s donating what you do professionally for an organization in need of that support.
Taproot gives professionals in marketing, technology, HR and strategy management the opportunity to do pro bono and donate their time and talent to nonprofits in San Francisco, LA, Chicago, New York City and Washington DC.
So, “who are these pro bono consultants anyway?”
Some quick highlights:
- 4000+ business professionals in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and Washington DC
- backgrounds in marketing, technology, HR and strategy management
- in the midst of successful careers with at least 3 years of experience in their role
- most working full time, some independent consultants, some in transition
- all choosing to give back to their local communities by donating their time and talent
- intelligent, savvy, accomplished, dedicated and all around IMPRESSIVE group of folks
- since 2001, they have completed over 1800 Taproot projects and collectively delivered over 90 million dollars in pro bono services to the nonprofit sector
As a VISTA, I was totally blown away by the impact this group of talented professionals was having – giving nonprofits access to resources that most businesses take for granted.
So what motivates people to join Taproot?
- To make an impact on their local community
- To network with like minded, talented professionals
- To keep their skills fresh while in transition or to use their skills in a new context
As a pro bono graphic designer once told us, at his job he only gets to design in blue and white; at Taproot, he gets to use the whole rainbow of colors. Pro bono projects can be a fun and creative outlet – a breath of fresh air from the day to day. This is how we hope all our consultants feel about their Taproot engagements. In fact, it’s our vision that by 2020, all business professionals view pro bono work as an inherent part of any successful career.
They are the value that Taproot Foundation awards to nonprofits – they are Taproot. We wouldn’t be here without them.
In the spirit of recognizing service and in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day this month, let me say THANK YOU to the thousands of business professionals nationwide that serve as Taproot pro bono consultants and share their gifts with the nonprofit sector.
As for you – take this week to think about what talents you need to share with the world! And don’t forget to say thank you to all the volunteers that helped make you great.
Burning question #2: How do you say thank you to your organization’s volunteers? What is the most thoughtful thank you you’ve received as a volunteer yourself?
For the sake of the future e-anthropologist, FREE stuff that I, Miriam the Millennial, am into now: 1 free chocolate a month (Godiva Rewards Card), free and fabulous haircuts, 1 free ice cream a year, free books (ya libraries), free TV shows, free music listening.
Share YOUR free stuff resources with your fellow Millenials!
Miriam Young is a Featured Blogger for Mobilize.org’s The Millennial Report. and a Program Manager at the Taproot Foundation in Chicago and will be writing monthly blog posts on the pro bono movement and more! Miriam initially joined Taproot as an AmeriCorps volunteer and then went on to work as a Humanitarian Grant Coordinator for Francophone Africa at The Rotary Foundation. She returned back to Taproot in Dec 2010 and has been immersed in the pro bono movement since! She welcomes all electronic snail mail at Miriam@taprootfoundation.org Megan Emme is the New Media Coordinator at Mobilize.org and runs their blogging program, The Millennial Report. Megan is a Junior at San Francisco State University and also works as the SF Regional Coordinator for the Revolution Hunger Campaign. She hopes to pursue a career empowering young people to advocate for themselves as well as make a difference in their communities.
Megan Emme is the New Media Coordinator at Mobilize.org and runs their blogging program, The Millennial Report. Megan is a Junior at San Francisco State University and also works as the SF Regional Coordinator for the Revolution Hunger Campaign. She hopes to pursue a career empowering young people to advocate for themselves as well as make a difference in their communities.