By Armin Pialek, Taproot and BMW Foundation Project Manager
Back in the USA at last, I’ve restarted my deep dive into the pro bono world. The pro bono movement continues to grow, with new stakeholders, methods and countries being added to the map every day.
Inspired by the work of pro bono
To kick off Round 2, I met with CatchAfire founder Rachel Chong. I have been a huge CatchAfire fan ever since I started working in the US last year. Like Taproot, CatchAfire provides nonprofits with pro bono resources by matching professionals who want to donate their skills. Their efficient, easy-to-use website serves as their platform to serve nonprofits across the country. As a certifiedB Corp. CatchAfire works to achieve a mission like their nonprofit peers, but still reports to shareholders like a corporation. The vibe in their midtown office really exemplified the unique B Corp culture. A young team of professionals – each sitting in front of at least two giant screens -all working to advance society as well as to earn income. Inspired by the atmosphere, I actually started realizing what a great place NYC is to start a business. I mentioned that to a friend a day or two later, and I learned that the same is actually true for my hometown of Berlin. In fact, it is actually called New York City’s sixth borough as so many New Yorkers go to Berlin to start their business there.
The impact of pro bono multiplied
Last February, we had the first global meeting of pro bono intermediaries as part of the inaugural Global Pro Bono Summit. Ever since, we get calls from pro bono intermediaries and volunteer agencies around the world. This week I talked to Geoff of Spark, based in Winnipeg, Canada. For 8 years, Spark has provided nonprofits with the professional pro bono support that they need to reach their missions. They have chosen a very relational approach, where they thoroughly interview every pro bono consultant for about 45 minutes before matching him or her on a specific project. Usually the projects are done by one person, however their process tends to be more flexible than, for instance, a Taproot Service Grant—which works to solve a critical organizational need through a team-based approach. While a Service Grant engagement could last anywhere from 6-9 months, pro bono engagements at Spark are, on average, 15 to 20 Hours long. Spark, it was interesting to learn, is also supported by the provincial government in addition to grant making foundations. It made me realize that local authorities can be a great multiplier when they understand the power and impact of pro bono.