This excerpt of Taproot’s series on resilient nonprofit leaders comes from our resource ‘Building Resiliency Through Pro Bono.’ Download the nonprofit resource for additional project highlights and nonprofit case studies.
Can you feel the beat? Well the kids at Creative Emajinations sure can! Located in Kansas City, this nonprofit is working to bring dance, music, and, most importantly, confidence to children who want to express themselves. Their space offers youth the chance to learn and explore the performing arts with volunteers who help bring out their full creative potential. Creative Emajinations runs programs from music and recording, to hip hop dance, and even voice lessons. But every star performer needs back-up and that’s where pro bono came in.
Creating a foundation on pro bono
Ophelia Brinkley, President and CEO of Creative Emajinations, began looking into pro bono as a resource after researching ways her social good organization could benefit from volunteers’ expertise. “I started using Taproot not long after we become a nonprofit in late 2019. I took the jump after seeing how Taproot’s services aligned with our needs and could help advance our goals and mission.” Brinkley took this strategic mindset and went online to sign up to get pro bono support that filled gaps in their team’s capacity.
Creative Emajinations got started by looking for an expert to help kickstart their fundraising efforts. Brinkley and her team found the right volunteer and got to work writing proposals and researching grants they were eligible for. After completing that project, Brinkley was a pro bono convert: “I even asked the volunteer we’d worked with to stay on and become a board member!”
Since then, pro bono has contributed to building capacity across Creative Emajinations’ operations. “Volunteers we found through Taproot created our website, they helped draft our onboarding volunteer handbook, they even taught me employee compensation structures,” Brinkley explained. “I really appreciate what the Taproot Foundation has helped us accomplish thanks to their wide variety of kind professionals who help give their time and expertise to our organizations.”
With over 13 projects completed through Taproot Plus to date, Brinkley and her team have become experts at managing and using pro bono. “The key to making the most of pro bono is communication—share your expectations clearly when you’re creating projects and sessions.”
“Taproot pro bono has built capacity for my organization while allowing me to experience which professionals and skill-sets we need to add to our team or board.” – Ophelia Brinkley, President and CEO, Creative Emajinations
The show must go on
The pandemic forced Creative Emajiniations to close its physical doors and find innovative ways to continue their work remotely (like many nonprofits had to in 2020). But the move to virtual programming also had a major benefit: suddenly they could reach children, regardless of location, who wanted to take their classes. “Our mission is to provide performing arts services without limitations to students no matter the location, and that’s exactly what we’ve been able to do by going virtual during the pandemic.”
The pandemic couldn’t stop their work using pro bono to increase organizational stability either. Recently Creative Emajinations has been working with a remote PR volunteer to create a sponsorship proposal to share with potential donors, helping to ensure that their mission is supported for many more years to come.