This week I took yet another perspective on pro bono — the pro bono service perspective. By pro bono service I really mean all the organizations like Taproot, which act as intermediaries to facilitate pro bono projects. Those intermediaries ensure that pro bono projects leave all stakeholders satisfied. Services include scoping the needs of the nonprofit, identifying matching pro bono consultants, monitoring the actual pro bono projects, and finally evaluating the project and its outcomes. In the US there are different providers with certain differences in the services they provide. I found Catchafire and VolunteerMatch particularly interesting. While Taproot provides pro bono services through its Service Grant Program in the areas of marketing, leadership development and human resource as well as strategy and IT, Catchafire provides pro bono more broadly, while still providing the same wide range of services. VolunteerMatch, offering mainly technology-based solutions, focuses on hands-on volunteering. What I find most interesting are the differences in the underlying business models. Catchafire has developed a fee based membership model. Nonprofits that register get access to their network of professionals and the management of a pro bono project. VolunteerMatch provides fee based solutions to corporations that look to engage their employees. They also collect donations to facilitate the service. Taproot is kind of in between both models. Focusing on the philanthropic sector, Taproot approaches foundations to fund the Service Grants that are then awarded to nonprofits. In recent years, Taproot has also grown its fee-based advisory services practice, enabling corporations to implement employee pro bono engagement in their corporate social responsibility strategy. This insight is especially valuable when trying to establish pro bono intermediaries in other countries.
Armin Pialek is the first Fellow in a pilot joint venture between Taproot and the BMW Foundation. He is working to first bring pro bono to Germany, and then to replicate the model to engage Fellows to develop pro bono with Taproot and the BMW Foundation around the globe.