Cutting through the jargon
Enter any Taproot office, and within five minutes, besides being surprised by our yellow walls and striped socks, you’ll also be surprised at how many times you hear the phrase “Service Enterprise.” It’s not uncommon for Taproot staff to be using words that no one else understands–we certainly have a particular lingo of our own consisting of far too many acronyms. But we’re hoping that this newest addition to our vernacular catches on in the outside world.
Service Enterprise is the concept of employing volunteers in your core business functions to help expand your organizational capacity. As part of our work with Reimagining Service and California Volunteers , which Aaron wrote about in this blog post , we’ve learned that many organizations–like MEND in Pacoima, CA, which engages more than 500 volunteers a day to provide vital services to people in need–have been doing this for years, allowing them to greatly expand their impact. At MEND, not only do volunteers serve as service providers, but they also help to run back office functions. Apparently volunteers are all the rage these days.
Re-imagining the service enterprise
You probably don’t think that would be a revolutionary idea at an organization like Taproot, which mobilizes and provides pro bono volunteers to thousands of nonprofit organizations. But it might surprise you that until recently, we haven’t institutionalized a way to tap into that volunteer supply and their skills for internal Taproot projects. It’s easier said than done.
Since our January retreat, we’ve been abuzz over the idea of “service enterprise-ing,” and how to do it (yes, it’s the best verb since “Googling”). It’s not easy creating the infrastructure to provide pro bono consultants with a positive experience that also benefits nonprofits. Slowly but surely, we’re testing the waters.
An ongoing experiment
But our experiments have yielded excellent results. Just recently, a team of Taproot pro bono consultants–Karl Shaikh, Dodie Elhakei, Daphne Chan, and Shruti Malani–volunteered their time and expertise to help me and the rest of the product development team improve our Financial Analysis Service Grant. The team went above and beyond our expectations to create a set of deliverables that will help Taproot greatly improve our offering, and help nonprofits get the financial help they need.
There are also teams helping us plan identify opportunities engage more deeply in each of our cities: one team in the Bay Area (Tina Weinfurther, Daphne Chan, Bijal Shah, Anson Tsai, Jaime Pursuit), and one in Los Angeles (Larisa Gurnick, Glenn Spreen, Jeannine Champlain, Margaux Thomas, and Jason Arnold). There are consultants helping us train our other volunteers (Esther Clayson, Carol Septow, and David Baker). And there are pro bono fellows helping us with everything from product development (Alexandra Larschan), to web development (Kevin Flood), to finance and administration (Kino Song), development (Esther Kang and Kyson Bunthuwong), impact measurement (Camila Salamanca Nunez), recruitment (Tara Foreman), external affairs (Nicolle Bennett) and corporate engagement (Yoann Kassi-vivier).
This bevy of smart and savvy professionals is helping Taproot drastically expand our ability to help other nonprofits. Thanks to them for all their amazing, hard work. And, of course, for allowing us to finally use our new favorite term in the progressive: we’re service enterprising!