A few years ago, I observed my first ScopeAthon event. On a dreary fall day, in a cramped room deep within the headquarters of a Fortune 500 company, I sat down with dozens of overwhelmed nonprofits and eager corporate employees. My first thought was, "What the heck is a ScopeAthon?" To get that out of the way, a ScopeAthon is one of the Taproot Foundation's done-in-a-day programs, whereby professionals help nonprofits scope out capacity building projects. Ok, so then I wondered why all these people had decided to spend the next six hours together. What was the value?
I spent most of the time with an arts organization that unpacked a cascade of challenges. At first, they didn't even know where to begin. With careful guidance from the team of three professionals, they spent the time prioritizing issues, selecting a key obstacle, and building a durable roadmap for organizational change. I looked around the room and saw a bunch of light bulbs go off above the heads of the assembled nonprofit leaders. Aha! They finally knew how to start that strategic management, marketing, IT, or HR journey. First steps taken.
As folks starting shuffling out of the room, clutching their precious work plans, I pulled one of the volunteers aside. I was curious about what she got out of the engagement. She turned to me and said, "I've been working here for several years, and I'm pretty low on the executive ladder. I'm never called upon in staff meetings. Generally, I just keep my head down, but today I was a team leader for the first time. My group prepped for weeks, and it was pretty awesome to finally meet my nonprofit and have them leave with something tangible. No joke, this was my best day on the job."
There are so many ways to measure the value of pro bono. This type of giving has a huge multiplier effect for companies and professionals. To put it into perspective, traditional volunteer activities, such as tutoring or neighborhood beautification, are valued at around $20/hour while pro bono clocks in at around $120/hour. Pro bono service is deep, strategic, and infrastructural with a measureable impact on the sustainability of the nonprofit sector.
There are also significant brand and reputational benefits as companies and individuals engaged in this space raise their civic leadership profiles. HR departments love how pro bono improves recruitment, training, and retention efforts. Nearly 70 percent of the next generation of workers report a desire to work for companies that promote skills-based volunteering. Additionally, there are lots of great opportunities for cross-functional collaboration, enhanced team communication, peer networking, and project experimentation.
But, I keep coming back to that ScopeAthon volunteer. Her sense of renewed purpose, the new connection to her work, and the joy she felt helping that nonprofit was palpable and electric. All the practical benefits were in full swing but for her the value was personal and enduring.