Welcome back to Taproot University for the second week in the “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 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 last lesson , we reviewed the keys to making sure a project is completed and you reflected on how to put the tools outlined to work for your next project. While completing a project is the foundation for all effective pro bono work, a significant amount of pro bono work that is completed is never implemented by the nonprofit client. And even if it is, it isn’t sustained (e.g. the web site that quickly falls into disrepair).
This week we review the keys to delivering a project that is not implemented and sustainable. How do you make sure the project you create is really going to be used by the nonprofit so it can have its intended impact
IMPLEMENTED AND SUSTAINED DELIVERABLES
The final deliverable will only have a significant impact if the client can implement and sustain it. A completed deliverable the client cannot use will seriously compromise both client and pro bono team satisfaction and fail to meet the client’s original need.
There are three main obstacles you will encounter as a pro bono manager working to get a project done on time:
1) Nonprofit fit and readiness – For a client to get value from a pro bono project and its deliverables, the benefits of the project have to outweigh its costs. With pro bono service, the cost is the amount of time and resources a client has to invest. Two factors prevent projects from being successful for this reason: fit and readiness.
Fit: When the focus of a project does not directly address a high-priority need for the client, it is not worth either team’s time. The deliverable should strategically address pressing issues.Readiness: To get the most out of a pro bono engagement, the client organization needs to work effectively with a team of consultants, specifically as it relates to the specific project type. Common challenges include limited staff bandwidth, an unclear decision-making process, and/or lack of internal employee support and commitment to the project’s completion.
2) Gap in technical knowledge – The pro bono team’s technical expertise is critical to complete the deliverable, but its implementation and sustainability is largely dependent on the existence or transfer of some technical knowledge to the client. Because of staffing and resource constraints, the client organization may not have the necessary technical expertise. This can greatly undermine the likelihood of a deliverable being implemented and sustained and therefore having impact on the organization.
3) Limited resources – Many public interest organizations have limited financial resources. This may impact the organization’s available budget for implementing and maintaining the deliverable.
TOOLS TO USE
As a pro bono manager, you have four main tools to use to address these challenges proactively:
1) Conduct a nonprofit assessment in advance – For pro bono service to be beneficial, it must be the right project at the right time. Before deciding to engage in a project, the pro bono team’s point person and client organization lead should have a conversation to assess the proposed project’s fit with the client’s needs and their readiness to work with a pro bono team. Use this time to review the project’s scope, discuss the client’s anticipated time commitment, inquire about organizational decision-making practices, and so on. If any challenges are identified during this conversation, the project work plan should be adjusted to allow the client extra time to address specific impediments.
2) Plan for any deliverable constraints – A deliverable needs to be designed to work within a client’s limitations. For example, if a client receiving a pro bono brochure design has a limited budget to cover printing costs, the design should accommodate the budget. If the pro bono team produces a design that uses multiple colors, is intended for glossy paper, involves a lot of pages, etc., it will be a challenge for the organization to implement the brochure as the cost would be high. Instead, the project scope (that is articulated and agreed to at the beginning of the project) should include a detailed definition of the completed deliverable so maintenance needs are understood from the outset. In this example, a pre-determined brochure length, style, and budget should be discussed.
3) Provide training and delegate ownership – Training should always be built into the final stages of a pro bono project. ‘Owners’ of implementation, that is individuals in charge of transferring skills related to the deliverable, should be identified at the project’s outset. By identifying a client team member as the ‘owner’ of implementation and maintenance, and incorporating training into a specific pro bono team member’s responsibilities, the team will ensure proper team-client expertise transfer. When the deliverable is completed, the trainer should create a manual or presentation and conduct a training session with the client ‘owner’.
If there are other critical stakeholders, they should also receive training. This should be done by ‘training the trainer’ – equipping the client ‘owner’ to replicate necessary training for other relevant stakeholders. For example, a pro bono branding project creating key messages for an organization must include training the client ‘owner’ in charge of communications on how to start incorporating the messaging into the organization’s communications. It should also enable that person to provide similar training to the organization’s board of directors, executive director, and other necessary stakeholders in order for the messages to be implemented effectively
Questions to consider this week:
Think of a project you have done (in any setting) and how the scope of the project was set. What as the impact of the way you set the scope on the rest of the project? For pro bono projects you offer or seek to offer, create a list of the likely hard costs associated with implementing the deliverables. Create a recommendation for each on how those costs should be coveredIdentify someone in your organization who is an expert in training. Ask them to partner with you to design the training phase of your project(s).