This holiday season, I’m thankful not just for chocolate, after-Christmas sales, and the 24 hour marathon of “A Christmas Story,” but also for our pro bono consultants. They dedicate countless hours and expertise to doing pro bono, and, even more importantly, they make my job easier. I’m only kidding about the part that it’s more important that they make my job easier, but believe it or not, they actually do help.
How do I manage to outsource my work to our pro bono consultants? Well, in our online community, pro bono consultants provide their thoughts, comments and suggestions on Taproot’s Service Grant Program. They use both our question and answer forum and suggestions box to share ideas about how we can improve our services, and Taproot’s product development team–including me–makes many a pit-stop in our online community en route to product improvement.
Listening to our consultants’ needs
Take our website service grant, for example. It’s far and away our most demanded Service Grant, and yet over the past few years, it was also inspiring the most feedback out of any of our 16 grant options. We were hearing all kinds of things, from “The Information Architect should not be a distinct role, but instead a competency required in at least one team member,” to “Why can’t we do the most super-cool, neato add-ons to our nonprofit clients’ websites that allow their viewers to link-in-to-my-space-book?” to “Maybe it should be a requirement that pro bono teams help their client take their new site live….”
Based on all of the symptoms we were hearing, we had the inkling that it was time for an overhaul. My teammate Natasha Matusova, Taproot’s fearless Integrated Product Development Associate, put on her mask and gloves and prepared for Service Grant surgery. She read through more than seven suggestions with over 15 comments in our online community in addition to countless hours of online research and conversations with both clients and pro bono consultant’s and then got to business. We released our web Service Grant back into the pro bono world in November, with many of the tweaks and stitches that our pro bono consultant doctors prescribed. Here are a handful of examples:
Thanks to Jeffrey Levetin’s input, we’ve made it so that in most cases–unless the client has enough technical capability to do it on their own–nonprofit clients will be provided with a Service Grant that includes getting a live site. We also followed his recommendation to adopt a more agile approach to web development, though we couldn’t go completely agile. Thanks to Teri Gidwitz, we improved the way we identify Information Architects in our database, and now we make sure to staff someone on each team with Information Architect competencies. We also updated the tech requirements–per her suggestion–to make sure we weren’t referencing outdated technology.
A culture of feedback
And the patient care won’t stop now that the surgery’s done. We’ve committed to fostering a community to nurture our web developers, so that our web Service Grants–and the people who provide them–can thrive.
So now that this patient has been released, and we’ve gotten lots of positive feedback, we’re also adding “Let pro bono consultants help us with our work more” after “Watch less TV” on our list of New Years’ resolutions.
Ryan Cohen is a Product Development Fellow at the Taproot Foundation.
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