This post is Part 1 of our 3-part series “Making the Match,” which breaks down how to increase the impact of your pro bono program by creating strong matches between your talent and your nonprofit partners.
At Taproot, we see two distinct kinds of pro bono support: technical and strategic. Understanding which type nonprofits need is essential, both to ensure nonprofits receive the right support and that corporate talent has a positive experience. Technical support fills gaps in a nonprofit’s capacity by building websites, designing annual reports, and setting up Salesforce systems using technical expertise these organizations could not afford at market rates. In contrast, strategic support helps a nonprofit seize opportunities by exploring new markets, developing innovative solutions, and by transforming organizations using research, broad business acumen, and a dose of creativity.
Defining support needs for nonprofits
Reading those definitions you might think that strategic support is more important or valuable than technical support. That’s not the case – each type of pro bono fulfills a vital need in the social sector. Here we define these two types of support:
- Technical support: Technical support tends to be the most commonly requested by nonprofits. On Taproot’s online pro bono marketplace there are five technical projects for every strategy project. That’s because many nonprofits (particularly smaller organizations) have limited capacity for core support functions like marketing, human resources, and IT. For these organizations, technical support is the key to moving their missions forward. A PowerPoint full of strategic marketing recommendations won’t do much good if an organization’s website doesn’t work.
- Strategic support: Strategic support meets a very different need. Perpetually resource-strapped, nonprofits often need their employees to prioritize addressing immediate operational or programmatic challenges, which leaves much less time for abstract research, strategy, or innovation – all of which help inform key strategic decisions. Because nonprofits are constantly making trade-offs with how to allocate resources, even after thoughtful planning and numerous conversations sometimes great ideas sit on the shelf for months. For organizations navigating key decisions or piloting breakthrough innovations, focused research, analysis, and recommendations from a pro bono team can mean the difference between short- and long-term sustainability.
Now, which support should you deliver to your nonprofit partners? Here’s a simple way to think about what type of support your nonprofit partners might need and how your talent is best suited to help. These definitions aren’t comprehensive, but in general:
|Technical Pro Bono Support…||Strategic Pro Bono Support…|
In Part 2, we’ll explore how pro bono programs can be designed to deliver technical or strategic support for either operational or transformational impact. For now though, try applying these definitions to the pro bono support your company is already providing (or considering providing). Are you providing technical or strategic support? If you’re only offering one type of support, could your company offer the other?