You are nearing the home stretch – week five of Taproot University’s “Six Weeks to Become a Pro Bono Manager” course. Over these six weeks we have been walking you through the keys to the success of a pro bono manager. This guide is based on Taproot’s experience managing over 1,500 pro bono projects and developing many of the leading pro bono programs for our corporate partners from the Gap Inc. to Deloitte to Capital One. By the end you will have the basics down and will be able to proactively manage projects to get the right results.
So far you have learned to get a project done that is sustainable , meets expectations but also is satisfying for all parties involved . This week you will learn the most important piece of the job – ensuring the nonprofit reports that the project made an impact. This is the reason we do pro bono service.
MAKING AN IMPACT
While every pro bono project’s desired long-term outcome is to have a positive impact on the client organization, there are often multiple types of impact the client hopes to have. To achieve the desired results, every element of a pro bono project should be crafted with those specific desired outcomes in mind.
There are two main obstacles you will encounter as a pro bono manager working to ensure the project makes an impact:
Unarticulated outcomes – Pro bono projects often start articulating only the desired outputs – i.e. what is produced (a printed brochure, a live donor database, etc). A project’s outcomes are another category altogether, and must be spelled out at the outset of a project. Some examples of pro bono project outcomes include: a redesigned website producing increased online donations or an HR performance management system resulting in a decrease in employee turnover. Focus on experience instead of impact – As highlighted in the previous section, the pro bono project team members’ experience on the project is an important aspect of a project’s success. At the same time, a positive experience should never come at the cost of lowering the value of the deliverable. While dedicating fewer hours or dabbling in team roles where a participant has interest but not sufficient skill might make a pro bono team member’s experience more enjoyable, both put the work’s impact in jeopardy. This is a particularly common risk when corporate volunteerism managers are evaluated primarily based on the employees self-reported experiences on pro bono projects instead of the impact on the clients. Projects should be scoped so participants enjoy their experience while producing meaningful results for the client.
TOOLS TO USE
As a pro bono manager, the key to addressing these obstacles is to establish a strong outcomes model.
All service initiatives can follow a logic model that spells out: a project’s inputs (what resources will be used?), activities (what work will be done?), outputs (what will be produced?), short-term outcomes (what are the immediate effects of the work?), and long-term outcomes (how will this project help the client’s big picture going forward?).
To have a successful engagement and to enable effective measurements, each component of this model should be filled in and agreed upon by the lead on the pro bono project team and the client at the outset of the project. Remember to consider the desired outcomes for all stakeholders involved – the client team, the pro bono project team, and the client organization as a whole. Each stakeholder enters the project with desired outcomes in mind so it is best to be direct and acknowledge them up front so all the work is ultimately informed by these expectations, while placing the ultimate priority on positively impacting the client.
Questions to consider this week:
What process do you use to make your assumptions clear about why you are doing something? Are your intentions and expectations explicit? How do you communicate them?How have you in the past been able to help your colleagues unpack their intentions and expectations so they can be clear with you about their needs?
You now have all the core building blocks. Congrats! Next week, the final week in this series, we will share some insights about how to craft your job description informed by leading pro bono managers at companies across the country.