Who here has wanted to try virtual volunteering? Ok, you can put your hands down—you’ve come to the right place!
Now who here wants to know what they’re getting into before signing up? Ah, those same hands. And we commend you! It’s a great idea to learn some best practices before jumping in.
Lately we’ve gotten a lot of questions about virtual volunteering, so we hosted a webinar on how to get started with our virtual pro bono platform Taproot Plus. Joshua Groll, our Customer Success Manager, and Hema Kumar, an Organizational Change Management Lead and one of our expert virtual volunteers, shared their tips and some especially timely advice for volunteering from a safe social distance.
Our top take-aways from the webinar are listed below, and for more detail you can always check out the full recording!
What is Pro Bono, and How Does Taproot Plus Work?
At Taproot we help professionals share their skills pro bono—or ‘for the public good’—with nonprofits and other social good groups. Pro bono isn’t a great way to practice new skills, but if you have at least 3 years of professional experience in a skill set a nonprofit is looking for, we’d love to help you get started!
Hema had wanted to get involved with virtual skills-based volunteering for a long time, but all the opportunities she could find were in-person and too far away. Then in 2017, two things happened: she lost her job and she signed up for Taproot Plus. “I realized that Taproot was now set up to do virtual volunteering. I decided to go for it—I had the time, I could do it from home, and I wanted to keep my skills fresh.”
We built Taproot Plus to be as accessible as possible: flexible for nonprofits, easy to use for volunteers, and always free for both. The platform lets volunteers work from anywhere with an internet connection, giving professionals like you the opportunity to support any group in needs from wherever they are. After signing up you can filter projects by category and issue area, and the browsing page will automatically show you projects that match with your skill set. You’ll even get email updates when there’s a project that might be right for you!
Tips for Virtual Volunteering Through Taproot Plus
During the webinar Josh and Hema shared the following tips for navigating virtual pro bono through Taproot Plus from start to finish:
- From Josh: Cast a wide net. Applying for more than one project is a good strategy for finding the right fit! Reaching out about an opportunity doesn’t commit you to the project, and you’ll have the opportunity to accept or decline after you’ve had a chance to learn more.
- From Hema: If you’re nervous about in-person pro bono, virtual volunteering may be a good starting point! Start with something small and consider working for a group outside of your comfort zone to expand your horizons.
- From Josh: Sell yourself well. Think of applying for a volunteer opportunity like applying for a job—minus the salary negotiations. Share the same details about your interest and enthusiasm that you would in a cover letter, especially if you have a personal connection to the issue area.
- From Josh: Vet the nonprofit. Talk to the nonprofit you’ll be working with and get to know them—over video chat if possible. Once you know more about them and the project, it’ll be easier to know if you’ve found the right fit.
- From Hema: Remember to review the confidentiality agreement. Sometimes the nonprofit will ask for this. Review it, ask questions, and follow it!
- From Josh: Do the pre-work planning. You’ve found a match—that’s great! Now’s the time to clarify the work ahead and how you’ll be doing it together. And don’t be afraid to step up with planning the project. This nonprofit chose to work with you because you have deep expertise in the skills they need AND because you know how to get tasks like this one done efficiently.
- From Hema: Think of yourself as a consultant on the clock. Consider your engagement as a job—have the discipline and the accountability. Don’t ghost them. Consider the nonprofit your boss!
- From Josh: Create a timeline. Structure and communication are always important, but they’re essential when it comes to working virtually. Deadlines and pre-scheduled meetings can help a lot, and so is knowing when to hop on a five-minute call. It’s good to keep lines of communication warm.
- From Hema: Log your hours. It helps you keep track of your worth. Make a simple table to take a note of the date, what you did, and how long it took. This will help you estimate the value of your work for the nonprofit, especially if you want to track your pro bono as an in-kind donation. At the end of your engagement, ask the nonprofit to share their thoughts about your work on LinkedIn. And share your feedback with Taproot, that helps everyone!
- From Hema: When the nonprofit says thank you, remind them that we can’t do what they do for their clients every day. We’re here to help them do what we’re good at—so they can go do what they’re good at for others!
Your skills are extremely valuable, and sharing them through virtual pro bono can make a difference worth thousands of dollars to a nonprofit in need. A nonprofit’s “bottom line” is their mission, and you can help them get where they need to go next. We hosted this webinar and pulled these tips from the conversation to help you get started—and we’re here to answer any questions you might have along the way!