This article was written in collaboration with Team4Tech and released by The Conference Board.
Building Leadership with Skills-Based Volunteering
What motivates nonprofits and volunteers to engage in skills-based volunteering? Nonprofits use skills-based volunteering to strengthen their infrastructure in ways that better equip them to solve our communities’ challenges. Many volunteers give their skills to help solve a challenge for an organization addressing an issue they care about or to feel connected to the community. In this SNCR 2020 article, Taproot Foundation and Team4Tech partnered to further the social sector’s understanding of the leadership development benefits of skills-based volunteering—focusing exclusively on the nonprofit’s outcomes of such initiatives.
The Volunteer Precedent
Pro bono service has emerged as a powerful way to equip leaders with essential but hard-to-train for skills like empathy, humility, and resilience. Practicing these competencies in external contexts is a “challenging assignment,” according to the Center for Creative Leadership, which finds that pro bono service is relevant across all five of the challenge types that most effectively drive leadership development.
To date, the growing body of evidence around how pro-bono service builds leadership has primarily focused on the volunteer’s development. But developing up-and-coming leaders isn’t only for the for-profit sector. The same forces that create complex challenges for businesses technology, globalization, current events—are affecting the social sector. Nonprofits leaders need opportunities to practice the skills necessary to develop collaborative solutions in increasingly complex structures, and pro bono offers those unique opportunities.
Taproot and Team4Tech interviewed 10 international nonprofits to learn more about how working with pro-bono volunteers built leadership skills among staff. The organizations interviewed primarily offer international development and education services in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia. The global nature of their work offers a unique perspective into the opportunity for nonprofits to build leadership capacity for their staff within the context of pro-bono projects.