By Jennifer Diaz
Quick Consult is a series where members of our team share insights into questions and topics we hear are top of mind for pro bono practitioners at all stages. Jenni Diaz, a Senior Consultant & Market Lead in Taproot’s Advisory Services practice, provides a few tips for getting past what we refer to as “the myth of not enough time.” Check out Jenni’s advice below.
Employees at my company are incredibly busy and don’t have much time to offer. How can I get them engaged in pro bono?
One of the most common concerns companies share when thinking about developing a pro bono program is that their employees are strapped for time. What they find, though, is that smart pro bono program design can go a long way to address this concern. Consider these three tips.
- Your people can make a big impact in a short amount of time. Most companies already have some hands-on volunteering opportunities (like painting walls at a school or planting a community garden) that require employees to be away from their desks for a full or half day. Design your program with similar time expectations. You can run a high-quality, high-impact pro bono program that takes place in a day or less – it just requires careful expectation-setting and guidance for both the volunteers and the nonprofits. In a short-term setting, employees can help a nonprofit figure out why demand for their services might be so variable throughout the year, for instance, or develop a performance dashboard for their Board of Directors. You don’t need to have a lot of time to make a big difference. If the program is designed around existing volunteering norms, it will be easier for employees to feel like they can carve out the time to join in.
- Don’t let managers be a roadblock; make pro bono service worth their while. Sometimes direct managers aren’t willing to let their team member step away from their jobs to complete a pro bono project. Many don’t recognize that pro bono service can be an effective professional development strategy. It helps employees stretch their skills in a new and different context, and participants often report that they come back to their jobs energized with a new perspective. They learn to be more comfortable with ambiguity, creative with resources, and better at taking another’s viewpoint – all of which can help both themselves and their teams flourish. A manager who is hesitant to allow their direct reports some time away to volunteer–whether it’s one day or a few hours per week–may see it differently if they understand the incredible development opportunity it can offer their team.
- Integrate pro bono service into existing initiatives. Connecting your program to existing company initiatives and objectives can really help get more people engaged. Whether you decide to partner with your finance department to offer a program during their annual retreat or partner with HR to integrate a program into their existing talent development program, partnerships can be key. Identify initiatives at your company where employees already expect to spend time away from their desks and find a way to build in a pro bono experience.
Depending on your unique context, there are a number of ways to help your employees find the time for pro bono. And once they’re engaged, they’ll be wondering how they can spend more of their time doing pro bono. One of the most common pieces of feedback we hear from volunteers after completing a project is that they wish their pro bono experience was longer and they can’t wait to do more. Best of luck!
Jenni Diaz comes to Taproot Foundation with experience in for-profit, nonprofit, and B-Corp companies and a passion for helping people and organizations connect across sectors. Her dream pro bono project is helping a nonprofit with anything at all… in Hawaii.