Ten years ago this Sunday we launched the Taproot Foundation at the Hang Art gallery in San Francisco. It was a packed house of hundreds of nonprofit and business professionals and the energy in the room was amazing. My future wife was in the room (we had only met once and weren’t dating yet). My aunt got us some great food. Caroline Barlerin greeted the crowd from the balcony and shared her story about making an impact and then I shared my vision for the organization and asked everyone to join us in our work. Their response was stunning.
The work had begun nine months earlier when I pulled together my friends Brad and Mike to talk about the idea. They were excited about it so I posted a few ads on Craigslist asking for folks to help make it a reality.
We got a great response. That is how I met Caroline and the other passionate people who helped get us off the ground. One was a woman named Dorothy who gave us 40 hours of her time for a year to help design the programs and build the initial technology. She was one of over a dozen people that enabled us to launch without spending a penny.
Pro bono taking root in the Bay Area
In this initial phase we met with dozens of nonprofit professionals from across the Bay Area. Their work was so inspiring and their ability to do so much with so little gave us a deep appreciation for this talents and determination to help those most in need and address society’s most pressing challenge. They confirmed over and over again that volunteerism needed to be redefined to better meet their needs.
We were able to get an amazing amount done in the time leading up to the launch event. We got pro bono legal support to get our tax status. We designed the service grant catalog and initial service grants. With a group of Caroline’s friends, we developed our name, first tagline (“volunteering redefined”) and logo. We drafted a vision, mission and values. We launched our first website with online applications for nonprofits and PBCs (called volunteers back then). And we formed a board.
The night before the launch event six of us were up late making final edits on the site. We had an assembly line of folks writing and editing and then I updated the HTML directly.
Th next chapter
Looking back, it is amazing what we got done. There was no business plan. Little research. Just a vision, some passion and a bunch of professionals hungry to make an impact in the world. Sometimes that is how the most important work gets done.
As we look to start our second 10 years this Sunday it is good to be reminded of our origins and the spirit that made all we have done possible. We were formed pro bono to bring pro bono to the sector. I am so excited to see where we’ll go in the next ten years.