Wandering around the cavernous room with countless tables filled with people, I was struck by the hum of the crowd. The US Secretary of Commerce, Penny Pritzker, had kicked off the day. Now, hands were waving excitedly to illustrate a point; data was being scribbled on flip charts; heads were nodding in agreement; and computers were clacking away. On this day of service, I was surrounded by passionate nonprofit leaders and project managers brought together in the main ballroom of the Sheraton Tysons.
MLK Day, that moral anchor in our calendar, binds us to noble pursuits. It compels us to clean up our block, build a new playground, make lunches for the food pantry, or read a book with a struggling 4th grader. These are tangible, meaningful activities that connect us as a community and a nation. We come home with paint on our pants, mustard under our fingernails, an aching shoulder from lifting lumber, and a new appreciation of the work that remains before us as we strive for that more perfect union.
Power of pro bono
However, there are so many ways to serve. There is immense power in the spreadsheet, the flip chart, and the sticky note. It’s notoriously difficult to describe pro bono service in action, but here it was right before me. Taproot and 5 local chapters of the Project Management Institute had connected nearly 100 community groups and 400 project managers from the Washington, DC region. They were scoping capacity building projects, writing road maps to address key organizational problems, and prepping for the next implementation steps. How do we fix our website? Improve our board recruitment efforts? Measure our programs? And how do we better communicate our story?
Here I was in Taproot’s largest ScopeAthon ever. And I’m telling you, I felt the same energy in that room as I have on every hands-on volunteering event I’ve attended. This time, in those electrified faces, I could see the a-ha realization. This was impact, not just for a day, but for months and years to come. Finally, like a magic trick, the power of pro bono was revealed.
Photo: U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker kicks off the event.