Below is an excerpt from an interview with Aaron Hurst by Ryan Scott, CEO of Causecast and Forbes contributor.
A taproot is the core root of a plant that gathers nutrients from lateral roots and delivers them to the plant so it can flourish. Which makes it the perfect name for an organization that sees itself as a taproot for the nonprofit sector, drawing nutrients from the business community and delivering them to nonprofits so they can thrive.
Aaron Hurst launched Taproot in 2001 as a way to make pro-bono service a part of every business. The company divides its focus amongst three programs: the Service Grant Program, which operates in five cities and engages professionals in pro-bono services; advisory services, which support companies in developing their own customized pro-bono programs; and advocacy, in which Taproot partners with leading foundations, universities and other organizations to innovate new solutions for pro-bono services. In 2008, Taproot became the leading national advocate for pro-bono service and partnered with the White House to launch A Billion Plus Change, a national campaign to mobilize billions of dollars of pro-bono and skills-based volunteering by 2013 to address core issues our communities face across the country and around the world.
Taproot is reinventing corporate philanthropy by changing the way businesses impact their communities through skills-based volunteering. I had the chance to sit down with Aaron Hurst to learn more about his remarkable organization.
Ryan : You describe Taproot as leading a global service movement. What exactly is that movement and how are you moving it forward?
Aaron : The movement is fundamentally to have professionals recognize the honor and privilege to be able to work in their field, realizing that many can’t afford their services and changing what it means to be a professional to include doing good work, pro-bono work, which is the literal translation. So to think about it as a movement, it’s really about changing what it means to be a graphic designer, or a marketer, an IT professional, etc. It’s about realizing that 300 years ago, there were doctors and lawyers, and they recognized early on that these professionals were critical to the survival of individuals and society, and therefore they helped those who couldn’t afford their services. I think that in today’s society, pro-bono legal and medical services remain critical, but other professions have emerged that are absolutely critical to organizational survival, and that same method must become ingrained in these other professions.
Ryan : What inspired you to create Taproot?
Aaron : The inspiration came from starting my career in the nonprofit sector. I saw the barriers that nonprofits face and wanted to scale the impact they’re reaching for in society. I realized that yes, money’s an issue, but a huge part of the problem is the lack of access to talent, the functional talent that is really needed to scale an organization. And so Taproot came out of that entrepreneurial “ah ha!” moment, from seeing that we could create a parallel philanthropic marketplace, a consulting marketplace of talent.