At Taproot Foundation, we’ve got a million reasons why you should do it pro bono: networking opportunities, social change, professional development, etc. From this side of the pro bono movement, it’s baffling to me why everyone isn’t clamoring to jump on board and use their skills to for the greater public good.
Tapping the Taproot network in an informal survey, here are a few of the excuses we’ve heard (and my arguments against them).
1. “I don’t have enough time.”
This, of course, is the classic excuse. The common misconception is that professionals, especially high-performers, are too busy for pro bono engagements. But what we’ve seen over and over again is that achievers in any organization find time to go after the opportunities they want to pursue. The legal profession plainly illustrates this by going so far as to expect top lawyers to offer some services pro bono.
Once we had a woman serve on a Taproot engagement while she was pregnant. She gave birth, joined the conference call the next day, and finished out the project. While we’re definitely not recommending you put your health on the line, it just goes to show you can make room in your life for the things you deem important.
We understand the challenge of maintaining a well-balanced life. Be intentional about realistically scaling your commitment and being upfront about the contributions you’ll be able to make, and you will be surprised to find that nonprofits and fellow pro bono junkies are usually willing to consider your needs, too. That said, also be considerate of the time and effort being put toward hosting you as a volunteer and make sure you stick with your commitment.
2. “I’m unemployed right now, so I have to concentrate all my energy on looking for a job.”
Prospective employers don’t care about how many hours you spent job hunting – they want to know your skills have stayed sharp and relevant. So spend some of that valuable time in between positions exercising your abilities by serving a nonprofit AND making a difference in your community. Pro bono work is one of the best things professionals can do for themselves while unemployed. Besides, who knows what kind of networking opportunities you might encounter on your next pro bono project?
3. “I hate my job. Why would I want to spend my free time doing it?”
It’s sad but true: we’ve actually heard this from prospective pro bono consultants. So you’ve got the talent but not the drive. The reality is not everyone loves their workplace. But a pro bono engagement might be just the thing you need to re-infuse your career with passion and purpose. We’ve heard from our consultants that they appreciate stepping back from their daily grind and exercising autonomy and creativity on new and challenging projects, allowing them to love what they do again.
Even if that fails, skills-based volunteering can also be a great platform from which to network with people from other fields and open doors to unexpected opportunities – just make sure you’re contributing meaningful and quality work along the way.
4. “I’m really bad at what I do. I don’t want to make a nonprofit suffer.”
Looks like you’ve got some soul-searching of your own to do before taking the plunge into pro bono service. Take some time to discover the things in which you do excel and actually enjoy. Then harness those skills and find ways to use them for the public good.
5. “Wait, do you do drug screening? Because then I might have to wait while before I can get involved.”
Seriously, our recruitment team has heard it all. No, we don’t conduct screenings, but please don’t do drugs.