Pro bono. It is a phrase that can evoke strong emotions. Some recoil in horror at the thought for doing something without pay. Some have nightmares of unwieldy bureaucracies, decisions by committee, projects that seem to never end and get quickly out of control. And while pro bono isn’t for everyone, it also need not be a phrase that strikes fear into people. Doing work pro bono can be an enriching and rewarding experience, as I’ve found in my work as a WordPress developer. While most developers can command hefty sums and nice money for the work they do and might feel lukewarm about the idea of giving up time and resources for pro bono clients that they might otherwise use toward more lucrative pursuits, there are still many great reasons to consider pro bono work as part of your practice, especially with an organization like Taproot.
Variety is the spice of life
Sometimes, as WordPress developers, we find ourselves working either on the same types of projects or with the same types of clients. This is particularly true if you’re an in-house developer. While you may enjoy your work, sometimes there is a part of you that yearns to do something different, or maybe you want to strengthen your skills in a different framework or language. WordPress developer or not, doing pro bono work can expose you to other industries you might otherwise never encounter in your regular work. It can also be a great way for you to indulge your outside interests ??for example, if you enjoy the arts, you could work with organizations that support the arts and be around people and causes near and dear to you and gain a whole new appreciation for your particular interests.
It’s a learning opportunity
Having limited resources for a project doesn’t mean you can’t produce something amazing. Sometimes having limited resources can foster creative solutions. When you need to think quickly and think of alternatives, sometimes you come up with a breakthrough or something that makes your own coding practice more efficient. When I’ve been forced to code in a certain way because of time or money constraints, I’ve often come up with my own snippets or solutions that I use over and over again. Having to look at a problem a different way keeps you limber as a developer.
Also, pro bono projects can sometimes afford you greater control over how you approach building something. Often, you’re the one people look to for expertise; you can be the decision-maker and really shape how a project turns out. Maybe it will allow you to flex your muscles in a new framework or allow you to use methods you don’t really use in your regular work. It can be freeing and it might even lead to creative breakthroughs that make you efficient in all your other work. It can also give you the opportunity to work on other skills, such as project management and team management, that you might not have otherwise and can help further your career and leadership skills.
Get out of the box and meet people
Doing pro bono work can lead to great connections and friends and opportunities you might otherwise miss out on. Not only could you meet potential collaborators for future projects, you’ll also learn about organizations doing good in your community and feel more connected to your community. If you’re new to a city, getting involved with Taproot can be a great way to meet people and also learn about the pulse of your new city. You may even feel such a strong kinship with an organization that you decide to become even more involved with that group, and enriching both your life and the greater community.
It’s good for the soul
Many folks who do pro bono work do so because they feel compelled to make a greater difference with their work. Sometimes, folks want to make a greater impact or have a desire to give back to their communities but are not sure how. Using your skills to help an organization build something that can help it become more efficient or get the word out about its purpose and continue to do good work is a great way to benefit yourself and the community. When you do something connected to what you already do as your work, it helps you stay engaged and feel more invested in the work you’re doing. So many organizations need the expertise you can bring to the table.
And in the end, it’s a wonderful feeling to see how your work has truly benefited the organization and cause you’re working with. That gratitude and sense of accomplishment is priceless. I have seen nonprofit staffs and board members moved to tears by the work they have been presented with; that feeling never gets old and can alleviate the daily frustrations you feel with your regular work!
As mentioned before, doing pro bono work can be tricky, from WordPress to financial analysis. Defining boundaries is important to keep everyone on track and avoid frustrations. The fear of out-of-control projects is a large deterrent for folks wanting to do pro bono work (as someone who has worked with nonprofits regularly, I can attest to that!). But Taproot is an ideal situation in that it does a lot of the vetting of the organization beforehand and makes sure all parties are aware of what is in scope and what isn’t. It can take a huge load off your mind knowing that all you have to do is work with your team and figure out how you’re going to build what you need to. No fighting with clients, no worrying about unwieldy approval processes ??just do what you do best and build.
All that’s left is for you to get involved and take the leap into the pro bono world.
Jenn de la Fuente is a web designer and developer who specializes in custom WordPress development and runs her own design practice, Rosebud Designs. Many of her first clients were nonprofits, and she has always been involved with nonprofit organizations, particularly those involving the arts and design. She is currently working on projects through Taproot in Los Angeles and loving the experience.