By Crystal Hendricks-Kretzer, Taproot Foundation Director, Marketing & Communications. Originally written for and published on Ad Council’s AdLibbing blog.
You’ve got this project that’s been sitting on your to-do list for a while. It’s a behemoth; you’re not sure where to begin. And what’s more, it requires you to be an expert in areas you are certainly not. Sounds like you might have the perfect candidate for a pro bono project.
But before you dive in, the Taproot team suggests you answer these four questions that will help you determine if pro bono really is the right resource for tackling your project.
Not sure what pro bono is all about? Start here first.
QUESTION 1: Do you know what you need?
We promise we aren’t being silly with this question – of course you know what you need! What we’re actually encouraging you to do here is to clearly define your expectations by outlining what will (and won’t) be included in the project. This will help you determine how feasible the project really is and if pro bono is the right fit. Bonus: this work will ultimately put you on the path to a rock-solid project scope that will come in handy down the line.
Take note of the following:
- Needs and objectives to determine if this pro bono project is feasible and worth the investment of your time.
- Project deliverables you’re hoping to walk away with (like a brochure or a job applicant tracking system).
- Basic project outline, including any meetings or high-level processes.
QUESTION 2: Is your deadline feasible?
Is pro bono a good fit for the development of a marketing plan to sell seats at a concert happening next month? Probably not. But is it the right fit for developing a new employee policy manual needed for your next fiscal year, as long as your next fiscal year isn’t three months from now? Totally.
Pro bono service is best used for projects that won’t jeopardize your organization if the original deadline needs to be flexible, so a deadline six months away versus six weeks is the best fit.
QUESTION 3: How much knowledge is necessary?
Pro bono projects offer up a unique learning opportunity for both the nonprofit and the volunteer. You’ll be able to pick the brains of industry experts and receive pointers on best practices. They’ll get to explore the brilliant work you do in your community and learn about a new field.
What you’ll need to keep in mind here is just how much knowledge volunteers will need to successfully complete your pro bono project. Can they realistically learn all they need to know in a matter of a few hours or weeks? Or does your project require years of knowledge in the field? In the case of pro bono, the former is better than the latter.
QUESTION 4: Is your team of staff members as excited as you are?
All pro bono projects require an internal team to support the process, even if that team is just you. Ask yourself:
- Do critical internal team members want this project as much as I do? Make sure you have buy-in from your leadership and colleagues before diving in.
- Do critical internal team members have the capacity to support the work? If you’re just one piece of the information/implementation puzzle, you’ll need to make sure that other team members are prepared to set aside the necessary time to support this work, too.
Did you answer YES to all of these questions? Then it sounds like you’re ready to dive into pro bono!