Why Going Pro Bono Is Good for Business and Professional Development

I’ve been a pro bono devotee since I first learned about it. While doing some soul-searing career exploration, I heard of this new...


I’ve been a pro bono devotee since I first learned about it. While doing some soul-searing career exploration, I heard of this new organization pulling teams together to donate their professional skills to nonprofits. That was more than 10 years ago and the new organization was the Taproot Foundation. I didn’t take more than a second to decide to get involved.
Taproot provided one of the best early opportunities of my career: gaining experience with the nonprofit sector while growing my leadership skills through pro bono service.
This was early on in Taproot’s growth, and their founder Aaron Hurst shared his vision for adding HR services to their capabilities. We put together a team of consultants from our company, as well as clients (even competitors!) to figure out how Taproot could offer strategic HR projects to the nonprofit community. (Which we did!)
Since then, pro bono service has been part of my identity as a professional, an engaged citizen, and a business owner. I have worked with organizations in San Francisco, on a national level, and in Guatemala, where I lived for a short time. In all of these cases, I have chosen projects where my skills can be dedicated in a way that creates the most impact. The same is true now when I’m looking at pro bono work as the owner of a professional services firm. Where can my team’s expertise make the biggest impact? Here are two examples.
We developed the marketing curriculum that has guided dozens of businesses through the business incubation program at La Cocina, a San Francisco nonprofit that helps low-income women start food businesses. The curriculum outlines the key marketing education and steps that the businesses must take to create and grow a brand. It has grown and evolved over the last several years, but the foundational work has created tremendous value for their program participants and the organization overall. A small initial investment that has made a huge impact.
On a national stage, we also created the Text4Baby Employer Toolkit pro bono for the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Coalition. This toolkit makes it easy for employers to promote Text4Baby, a free public health program that has helped hundreds of thousands of pregnant women get health tips on their mobile phone. We presented the toolkit and the Text4Baby story at the South by Southwest Festival in 2011.
I took the Billion + Change pledge as a simple acknowledgement of the career-long commitment I unconsciously made to pro bono service more than 10 years ago. As a professional services firm, time is our currency. And, donating our skills through pro bono work allows us to create broader impact. It lets us scale. It connects us to the broader community. Just like it initially did for me, it provides irreplaceable professional development opportunities for our team.

Skills image via Shutterstock\n