This is a part of Taproot’s series featuring resilient nonprofit leaders. Download the nonprofit resource, Building Resiliency Through Pro Bono, for additional project highlights and nonprofit case studies.
Raise your hand if you were a Junior Achievement kid! With over 100 chapters around the country, Junior Achievement (JA) has impacted the lives of countless students, empowering them to make smart academic and economic decisions. Junior Achievement of Northern California spreads this culture of optimism, grit, and enterprise to their K-12 students in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. Their entrepreneurial programs focus on workforce readiness and financial literacy to help young people prepare for the world of work and understand the importance of education. Pro bono support has become fuel for this important mission.
A resource for those who are spread thin
While JA of Northern California has been using pro bono to aid their operations for years, Kate Trevelyan-Hall, the Development Director of JA of Northern California, managed her first Taproot Plus pro bono project during the COVID-19 pandemic. She was quickly sold on virtual pro bono being a tool they could rely on to help their organization weather the storms of 2020. “As a nonprofit, we tend to have fewer resources for marketing and tech, and the resources we do have were spread thin this year due to the pandemic,” Trevelyan-Hall shared. “When I realized that Taproot Plus could connect me to expert volunteers, I knew I had to take a look.”
Reaching new audiences through pro bono projects
The JA of Northern California team serves 90,000 students across 26 counties of California with a full-time staff of just 15 people. Volunteers are essential for carrying out their programs, but the pandemic made it tougher to recruit new volunteers. Trevelyan-Hall dove into a Google AdWords project with a virtual volunteer with the goal of more effectively reaching potential supporters.
She explained that their Taproot Plus partner was “very successful” in helping the team understand how to navigate the Google Ads platform and make full use of their nonprofit advertising grant. The volunteer outlined best practices for maintaining the Ads account so that the JA of Northern California team could feel comfortable and confident using the tool. The project was so helpful that it led to another pro bono partnership for Trevelyan-Hall—one focused on updating their website so that all their new visitors would know exactly how to get involved!
“I’d tell any nonprofit professional considering pro bono to make sure to schedule dedicated time for connecting with your volunteer, getting to know them, and keeping in touch regularly. It does take time to manage a volunteer, but it’s worth it.”
What makes it all so meaningful
During the pandemic on-demand support from skilled business professionals has been especially helpful for JA of Northern California. “Pro bono can make a big difference when it comes to nonprofit marketing, technology, CRM, websites, etc.” Trevelyan-Hall reflects. “Unfortunately, we don’t typically have many resources or in-house expertise to tackle those areas ourselves.” She specifically appreciated how the Taproot process encourages nonprofits to break down larger problems into bite-sized pieces that volunteers can knock out in short, dedicated projects. “Taproot Plus provides a structured way to post a project, vet applicants, and work with them to see the project through to completion. And it’s super easy to use!”
Virtual pro bono has become a crucial way to fill in gaps and build long-term capacity for JA of Northern California and other nonprofits providing important social services with a small but mighty staff. For Trevelyan-Hall, the projects JA of Northern California completed in 2020 were so impactful that “the experience opened our eyes to the opportunities that exist when you work with pro bono volunteers.”