This is the fourth week in Taproot University’s “Six Weeks to Become a Pro Bono Manager” course. Over these six weeks we are going to walk 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.
In the first three lessons you learned how to get a project done , how to ensure that the nonprofit client can implement and sustain the deliverables and meet client expectations . This week we focus on ensuring the interactions between the pro bono consultants and the client are strong and yield a high level of satisfaction from both parties.
Being an effective pro bono manager means balancing outcomes with the quality of the experience as well as balancing the satisfaction of the client with the pro bono team. As opposed to traditional paid engagements, the pro bono team members’ satisfaction is especially important as it is part of the implicit ‘payment’ they receive. However, there must be a balance between focus on client versus pro bono project team satisfaction, as well as overall satisfaction.
There are three main obstacles you will encounter as a pro bono manager working to ensure high quality interaction between the client and pro bono consultants:
Disproportionate emphasis – On a pro bono engagement, there are two ways that emphasis may be inappropriately placed on satisfaction. The first is focusing more on the pro bono team members’ satisfaction than the deliverable’s impact. The second is focusing only on the pro bono team members’ experiential satisfaction and not that of the client. Both have potential to undermine the success of a project.Unarticulated expectations – Disappointment stems from a gap between someone’s expectations and their experiences. Without understanding each stakeholder’s expectations, it is difficult to ensure a high level of satisfaction.Unclear roles and responsibilities – Team members’ dissatisfaction with each other often stems from frustration and miscommunication about roles and responsibilities on a project. This includes perceptions that a team member is overstepping his/her authority (and therefore undermining someone else’s), or that team members are not fulfilling the assumed responsibilities of their respective roles. These examples apply to both the pro bono consulting team and the client team.
TOOLS TO USE
As a pro bono manager, you have four main tools to use to address these challenges proactively:
Align everyone around impact first – While a pro bono project always has several desired short- and long-term outcomes, including those related to participant satisfaction and experiential benefit, the underlying focus must always be on client impact. A helpful best practice is to incorporate a statement to this effect in initial service agreement, aligning both parties to the ultimate priority in addition to acknowledging the scope of work and other project elements.Mutually acknowledge elements of satisfaction – The client team and pro bono project team members should be aware of each other’s desires and expectations for the pro bono engagement. What are the pro bono team members’ motivations for being involved in pro bono service? How do both teams prefer to communicate, and with what turnaround time? The client and pro bono project teams should articulate and acknowledge these and other expectations, standards, and work preferences upfront. By doing so, the combined team is able to correct unrealistic expectations, norm across differences, and pay more deliberate attention to meeting all reasonable expectations. This helps ensure that expectations, and the experience as a whole, are crafted thoughtfully.Build interaction into project work plan – While working virtually is increasingly accessible, particularly on a pro bono basis (e.g. for a previously unknown client, with a new team, with fewer accountability and trust mechanisms in place, etc.), it is important to build opportunities for interaction into the work plan. What meetings and desired work plan outcomes are best accomplished in person? What trust and relationship-building activities can be enhanced by face-to-face interaction? Additionally, every participant’s responsibilities should be clearly spelled out so every interaction is based on a common understanding.Celebration, thanks and recognition – Since pro bono projects do not include monetary payment, it is essential that the pro bono team members enjoy some form of thanks and recognition. Just like a hands-on volunteer activity is often rewarded with a thank you card or celebration, the pro bono project’s completion should include recognition for the participants’ time and work.
Questions to consider this week:
Can you recall a time you had someone do work for you that met your expectations but you still left the engagement not feeling satisfied (e.g. consultant, doctor, mother-in-law, etc.)? Why was the successful outcome not enough? How do you recruit pro bono consultants for a project? What benefits are you selling? How well are those aligned with what you can deliver? How might a pro bono consultant want you to celebrate the completion of the project? How might it be different from what a volunteer or donor needs?
Next week we focus on the most important lesson – how to ensure your project has an impact on the success of the nonprofit client.