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As a for-profit, B-to-B office supply company based on the Newman’s Own business model, obviously our primary contribution to the community is through the millions of dollars in profits we’ve donated over the past 21 years.
But we quickly realized that the pro bono model of leveraging other business assets could have a profound positive community impact too.
Over time, a successful business builds a whole arsenal of assets. We have a deep reservoir of employee talent, a fleet of trucks, warehouses, supply chain access and influence, bank credit lines, a broadly visited website, regular contact with thousands of customers, conference rooms, and the list could go on and on. The first priority claim on these assets needs to be to our customers. But when we asked ourselves, “How can we use existing assets under our control for additional community benefit?” it is amazing what possibilities came into focus.
Here are just a few examples:
We still own our trucks even when they return empty from their daily delivery runs. We created our e-Waste Pick Up Program to use those empty trucks to pick up the massive amounts of electronics waste from our clients and deliver those old computers to a job training program. That program repairs them for use by schools and nonprofits. In simpler terms, the pro bono investment of our distribution capacity, when previously unproductive, now creates much needed jobs in our community.
Another, perhaps even more amazing example is our partnership with K to College, a nonprofit working to provide free school supplies to homeless and very low income children in California public schools. We essentially “lent” our buying power in our supply chain, which includes school supplies, and our warehouse and logistics infrastructure to the K to College program in a way that resulted last year in 157,000 backpacks filled with a full term’s school supplies for needy school children. We collaborated to create perhaps the largest free school supply program in the U.S. largely by the effective power of pro-bono.
Beyond the more typical lending of technical expertise and employee participation in community volunteerism, which we also engage in, it is astounding what can be accomplished with other innovative uses of business assets in a pro bono context. That’s why we were thrilled to take the Billion + Change pledge and proudly add our efforts to the cause.
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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...

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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.
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TYTHEDesign: A New Business Model to Balance Profit and Social Good

TYTHEDesign was founded on the belief that designers should donate some of their talents to help those in need.


People often ask why I started TYTHEdesign, our collaborative consulting firm that supports the needs of organizations working in the social sector. The simple truth: I started the firm because my job didn’t exist. I was trained as an architect and product designer, but in 2009 there weren’t very many opportunities to do impact work in the social good community. I started TYTHEdesign to use the lens of design to increase the impact of groups serving the public good.

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Help Your Company Add a Pro Bono Service Program

Use this letter from Public Architecture to help convince your boss to add a pro bono program to your company.

Pro bono service goes beyond simple volunteering to help nonprofits by making use of your professional skills. Here's how you can urge your CEO to commit company time to pro bono work. Public Architecture, which helps architecture and other design firms add pro bono programs, wrote this handy letter that you can download and email to your boss.

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The Best Gift a Nonprofit Can Get

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Just imagine what would happen if we took the creativity of Google, the marketing capacity of Edelman, the logistics of UPS, and the strategic planning and consulting services of Deloitte, and applied that to the nonprofit sector. We could unleash the vast resources of corporate America to address urgent community priorities, from veterans and military families, to education and workforce readiness. While many think about giving back and transforming communities like this during the holidays, America’s favorite brands are seizing new momentum to lend their best skills, time and talent to nonprofits 365 days of the year.

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