Public service: as American as apple pie
As Fourth of July weekend kicks off and feelings of patriotism begin to surge, the idea of public service naturally moves to the forefront of the national consciousness. It’s a great opportunity for Americans to think about ways we can give back to a country that has allowed us freedom and the rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
For many Americans, “public service” conjures up images of soup kitchens and trash pick-ups. While those things do address the urgent needs of our communities, why not think long-term as well and find a way to make sustainable change by building infrastructure and capacity?
At Taproot, we’ve seen how pro bono service can have far-reaching effects on nonprofits. Just last week, we received a note on our Facebook page from ColorBurst Screen Printing , a nonprofit that provides job training for and employment opportunities for adults with autism and other developmental challenges. Our pro bono consultants provided to them a key messaging and brand strategy Service Grant in 2008, followed up by a donor database Service Grant in 2009. Colorburst just wanted to let us know of the long-term impact their pro bono engagement had. “ColorBurst is celebrating it’s best year ever–and it all started with our first Taproot grant!” the message read. “That first Taproot project led to a number of changes that have helped us to grow.”
Pro bono revolution
And it goes even further than that. Taproot wants to see pro bono service deeply integrated into the way our society thinks about work. Taproot’s Founder and President Aaron Hurst points out the impact this can have on our cities in an essay written for Next American City magazine: “Just as we redesign our work around new technologies, we have the opportunity to strategically redesign our work in cities around volunteers as well. We start with questions about the fundamental nature of the work and how it could be done differently if we used volunteers. It takes creativity to be open and see the ways volunteers can be a lot more than just a replacement for paid labor.”
Pro bono service is a bridge that brings people together, creates understanding, and yields lasting impact on today’s most dire issues. We’ve already won one revolution to gain our independence; now let’s win the pro bono revolution for social change. This Fourth of July, let’s work to make pro bono not just an idea, but rather an ideal of the American way of life.
Joshua Winata is an External Affairs Fellow at the Taproot Foundation.