This week we hosted the second Pro Bono Roundtable – a two day retreat for leaders in the pro bono field. Meeting on the 19th floor of the John Hancock building in Boston, we reflected on the state of the field and began shaping the roadmap for advancing the field over the next 24 months.
Enhancing the field of pro bono
Booz Allen Hamilton, Capital One, Deloitte, Gap, Merck and Target – the corporate leaders in the field joined the heads of Public Architecture, the Pro Bono Institute and the Foundation Center for the meeting. Two of our strategic partners also joined the discussion. CECP helped serve as a bridge to their CEO members and a representative from CNCS was present to connect us with the service initiatives being pursued by the federal government.
The metaphor that emerged which best describes the current state of the pro bono field was that of an hour glass. Thanks to the success of our partners, the calls to service by both Obama and Bush, the effect of Service Nation and our economy, the interest in pro bono service from the nonprofit and business community is incredibly high (see this SF Chronicle story ). Picture this interest in doing pro bono work as the sand at the top of the hour glass. The challenge right now is that the funnel for the sand to pass through to reach the bottom is so narrow that only one grain of sand can pass through at a time. This funnel represents the field’s capacity to manage pro bono work, which is next to none. All this interest in pro bono is stuck in the bottleneck because as a field we don’t have enough people to effectively manage pro bono engagements ensuring their successful completion.
Given that this is the state of the field, the Leadership Group has dedicated itself to focus the next 24 months on doing whatever is necessary to increase the number of professionals in the field managing pro bono projects for nonprofits in need. We need to support the business case for funding these professionals and provide them with the training and support to be successful. They will exist at consulting firms, corporations, universities, nonprofit intermediaries and hopefully also at large nonprofits who are big enough to have this specialization in-house.
It is time to shift our focus from filling the hour glass with sand to opening the funnel width so we enable nonprofits to be served and for business professionals to realize their ambition to make a difference.