We’ve had the privilege of tracking the progress and impact our amazing pro bono consultants. But rarely do we get the opportunity to pull back the curtain and let you meet the playful professionals who help bring everything together behind the scenes. In a new monthly series, we’ll be sharing stories from our own staff and letting you know why we’ve decided to MAKE IT MATTER with our jobs at Taproot.
Senior Program Manager, Los Angeles
I was one of the first Pro Bono Account Directors for Taproot in Los Angeles back in January 2009. I was assigned to a Web site project for the Downtown Women’s Center, a wonderful organization that provides long term shelter to homeless women in downtown L.A. I pulled together a strong pro bono team, and we were ready to go.
We decided to have our initial team meeting during lunch at the Downtown Women’s Center (DWC) to get a feel for the work the organization is doing to help homeless women in LA. The clients at the DWC split us up to sit among the 125 homeless women who were at the Center for meal time. I was a bit nervous at first as I certainly had never sat down with so many homeless women at a table for lunch. However, the women were so friendly, I immediately felt right at home and had a wonderful conversation with the ladies. I learned about the enormous challenges these women face, and how incredibly grateful they are to an organization like the DWC, which cares enough about them to get them off the street and provide long term housing.
The Executive Sponsor from the DWC spoke at the lunch and told the women that this Taproot team was going to develop a new Web site for the DWC at no charge. She then introduced each of the Taproot team members, and all of the sudden all 125 women stood up to give the Taproot team a standing ovation. I have honestly never felt that kind of deep appreciation for helping people. I never understood the enormous challenges homeless women face every day, and how deeply appreciative they are for anyone willing to help. It was one of the most moving moments in my life and it made me immediately realize the value I can bring using my skills from the corporate world to help a nonprofit better serve individuals who so desperately need help.
Just a week later, I received a note from Taproot indicating they were looking for someone to come on full time as Program Manager in L.A. I literally jumped at the chance to use my skills to help dozens of Taproot pro bono teams have a similar transformative experience and make a truly meaningful impact in helping those who are less fortunate. I made the decision to leave the corporate world to join Taproot in May 2009, and I’ve never been happier.
Director of Product and Program Development
Every weekday, when we all walk out the door, I tell my kids where we’re going. They go to school, and their daddy Mark and I go to work, and that (plus all the requisite hugs and kisses) is our chant as we head out the door.
One day when my oldest was about 2 years old, I brought him into the Taproot office for lunch. I thought it would be nice for him to see where I spent the day. We walked into the downstairs office, and he looked around at all the desks and said, “Where’s Daddy?” I laughed and explained that we had two different workplaces, and he looked puzzled. Since Mark and I always said we were both going “to work”, it made sense–of course Teddy thought Daddy would be there!
But “work” isn’t really some monolithic entity. And I’m particularly proud of where I work and what I do and who I do it with. So from that day on I’ve made a point of saying exactly where I’m going when I head out the door each day. Teddy and George are going to Katherine Michiels School. Daddy is going to work. And me? I’m going to Taproot.
Development Associate, Eastern-Central Region
I came to Taproot with the foggiest of ideas about the nonprofit sector. I graduated from college in 2009 with a humanities degree, and like many of my peers, I felt lost during the entry-level job search. The publishing jobs promised to me were nonexistent, I didn’t want to go to law school, and public relations didn’t exactly tug at my heartstrings. As a strong writer with a passion for literature and research, I was attracted to a grantwriting role at Taproot that would allow me to think critically and craft pages of text all day long.
As I began drafting grant proposals and reports for Taproot, I knew that my role fit me well. I was puzzled, however, when our Chicago Executive Director asked me what inspired me about nonprofits. What inspired me about nonprofits? What were nonprofits? I had landed in the sector incidentally–I wasn’t a part of those groups in undergrad that painted houses in Appalachia, organized campus workers for living wages, or demonstrated for women’s reproductive rights on the quad. Once again, I felt lost.
My manager suggested that I shadow a Taproot Service Grant project–I needed an inside peek at another nonprofit to get my bearings. I was elated when I learned that Taproot was awarding a pro bono consulting project to an organization I really admired–826CHI. Founded by Dave Eggers (on whom I had written at least three papers in college) and armed with a quirky organizational personality, 826CHI provides creative writing and tutoring services to underprivileged youth in Chicago. By shadowing 826CHI’s pro bono project, I am learning first-hand about nonprofits’ strengths in delivering needed services, the many challenges that organizations face (whether or not they have a celeb founder), and the ways in which pro bono talent can help nonprofits expand social impact.
I may not have painted houses in college, but that didn’t mean nonprofits weren’t relevant to me. Think about where your passions lie–literature, land conservation, nutrition, dance, workforce development, the list goes on–and chances are, there’s a nonprofit out there that’s making serious headway in them, and you should give them a closer look.