Recently Joshua Groll, Customer Success Manager here at Taproot, led a webinar on how to plan your next virtual project by using four simple tests we’ve established over the years to determine if your next project is ready for pro bono. In these incredibly busy and physically-distanced times, we want to help nonprofits everywhere get the help they need and set them up for success with 100% remote pro bono.
Kai Williams, the Executive Director of Oregon-based nonprofit, the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council, joined the program to share a case study on how her organization has especially benefitted from using Taproot Plus as a resource for pro bono talent. You can check out the full recording here.
Four tests to make sure pro bono support is the right fit
Pro bono services can run across all business areas; the most common we see are in tech, marketing, finance, strategy, and HR. These services are donated by skilled volunteers to organizations working for the public good.
You probably have a long list of projects to accomplish – but how can you know which are a good fit for pro bono? We’ve come up with four straightforward tests that help identify which projects are ready: Scope, Knowledge Transfer, Board and Staff Readiness, and Urgency. Let’s explore each one in a little more detail:
How big is your project? How well defined?
The important thing to do for this test is get a clear picture of how big your project really is. Kai shared that if you don’t know your project’s scope, you can always seek out help through a short pro bono session to define your scope and get you set up to tackle the project.
If your project isn’t clearly defined yet, Josh had three tips:
- Trust your gut. You know your nonprofit best and have a good sense of what can and cannot be accomplished in a single project.
- Consider getting an expert to help you narrow your scope. A quick, 1-hour consultation session with an expert on Taproot Plus is a great resource when you’re getting started!
- Be wary of “scope creep.” Some projects seem to grow beyond your initial plans—especially projects involving web development.
If you’re interested in building a better project scope, check out our four steps to building stronger project scopes for a few tips on how write one that’s as helpful as possible. We also now have pre-scoped projects on Taproot Plus for some of the most common projects that can be difficult to scope out independently!
How much knowledge about your organization will you have to provide so your volunteer can get started? Are you confident that your team will be able to share it clearly and quickly?
Some projects only rely on a volunteer’s time and expertise, while others require you to share quite a bit of information about your work and goals before a volunteer can get started.
- Less knowledge to transfer: Getting a photographer’s help documenting your annual gala. They would only need the event agenda and the names and faces of key players to photograph.
- More knowledge to transfer: Getting a marketer’s help designing your holiday giving strategy. They would need to know about your strategies in the past, your funding struggles, your existing donor base, and your goals for the season.
Complete this test by identifying the knowledge you’ll have to transfer, how you plan to transfer it digitally, and who on your team will be responsible for making sure your volunteer has all the information they necessary to get started.
BOARD AND STAFF READINESS
Do people in your organization really want this? Or is it just you?
This test is a little more straightforward but every bit as important as the previous two. In order to make your project a success, you’ll have to get buy-in from everyone who will be involved in the project and affected by its outcomes.
If you really want to try crowdfunding but your marketing director doesn’t think it’s a priority…that is probably a red flag.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ll be able to handle it all on your own! Several folks from your organization might have to get involved to make your project a success—talk to them now and make sure you’re all on the same page.
How urgent is your project?
If your project is urgent—if very bad/inconvenient things will happen if it’s not completed immediately—then pro bono isn’t an appropriate way to get it done.
- High urgency/inappropriate for pro bono: bringing in an event planner for your gala… two weeks beforehand.
- Lower urgency/ready for pro bono: getting a digital analyst’s help exploring your site’s traffic over the next 6 to 9 months.
Pro bono projects can sometimes take longer than initially expected, so it’s best to be mindful of what your deadlines are going in. If your project has an absolute deadline that’s coming up soon, it’s probably not a great fit for pro bono. Take the scope and planning you’ve already done and start looking for a professional to hire who might be able to finish it on a tighter deadline.
If your project has passed all four tests, then congratulations, you’re ready for pro bono!
Case study: An Animation Project for the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council
“We were already using pro bono, we just weren’t calling it that” – Kai Williams, Executive Director of the International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council.
The International Wildlife Rehabilitation Council hosts a wide array of classes and has drawn on the professional skills of their talented volunteer pool for years. Kai shared the story of their first Taproot Plus pro bono project when an instructor suggested creating an animated video for their class.
After roughing out a project scope, they found that no one in their existing community of volunteers had the animation skills necessary to bring the video to life. That was when they decided to use Taproot Plus and quickly matched with a volunteer. Their volunteer had no background in wildlife rehabilitation but had strong video and animation skills, so the actual knowledge transfer was limited to the content of the video to be made. There were already members of the team dedicated making the project happen, and that staff readiness helped them proceed quickly and creatively. Because they budgeted in enough time to complete the project without undo urgency, their volunteer helped create a video that they’re still using to this day!
Kai advised that nonprofits considering pro bono treat the process of finding a volunteer like hiring someone for a job. “Ask ‘what are your expectations?’ It helps make sure you’re both aligned, and it also helps engage the volunteer.” The more alignment and engagement you have from both sides of the equation, the more likely you are to work well together.
Once you dip your toe in and successfully manage one project, you’ll be more confident looking around your organization for other pro bono possibilities. Check out our tips for managing great pro bono projects for more suggestions!