THE BLOG
10/29/2015 12:36 am ET Updated Oct 28, 2016

This Is the Best Bang for Your Volunteering Buck

Happy Pro Bono Week!

This time in October is when volunteer leaders honor the power of pro bono, a global campaign that celebrates and activates pro bono service across all professions that use their talents to make a difference. Organized by Taproot, the leading national advocate for pro bono service, and inspired by the American Bar Association's National Celebration of Pro Bono, Pro Bono Week is an opportunity to highlight the global network of pro bono champions who mobilize volunteers around the world.

Since Pro Bono Week was first launched three years ago, the popularity of this form of service has risen to the point where it's become the fastest-growing employee-volunteering program. According to Daryl Brewster, CEO of CECP, a coalition of 150 CEOs of the world's largest companies focused on societal engagement, the percentage of companies offering pro bono service increased from 40 percent in 2012 to more than half last year.

This year, the focus of Pro Bono Week is on the innovative ways that pro bono service builds new communities. By drawing business professionals and corporations into causes they would otherwise not be exposed to, pro bono service offers creative paths for collaboration and can spur community service ideas. This unique form of service also allows social change organizations to tap expertise they don't typically have the resources to access, creating a huge impact on a nonprofit's bottom line.

The value of pro bono service is profound in many ways for everyone involved, but how does this contribution translate into dollars? This year, Taproot partnered with CECP to assess the 2015 standard for the value of pro bono service, using data included in the 2015 Salary Guides produced annually by professional staffing firm Robert Half. The final assessment they arrived at is $150 per hour, which is an increase of 25 percent from the previous estimate for the hourly value of pro bono. This compares to $23.07 per hour for more traditional volunteering, which is the estimated value of volunteer time according to the 2014 Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Defining the monetary value of pro bono is an important step in growing the movement of this form of volunteer service. "It's one thing for a nonprofit Executive Director to report to her board that she received outstanding marketing or IT support pro bono," notes Liz Hamburg, President and CEO, Taproot Foundation, "but the benefit to the organization is amplified and becomes tangible when she can add that the value of the service was $10,000, $30,000 or upwards of $75,000. The same is true for companies or professionals interested in tracking and reporting their pro bono service."

Here's how some organizations are prioritizing pro bono service:

  • Building on decades of classroom visits, Dow created the Dow STEM Ambassadors program, which in less than a year is a 1,300-strong cadre of volunteers around the globe. The program creates a structure around employee volunteerism to better meet student, teacher, employee and corporate needs. These efforts help support Change the Equation, which works at the intersection of business and education to ensure that all students are STEM literate by collaborating with schools, communities, and states to adopt and implement excellent STEM policies and programs. The Ambassadors program allows employees to tell the Dow story to a captive audience of students, teachers and parents, and the company considers it a linchpin in its commitment to positively impact the lives of a billion people across the world over the next decade via employee engagement.
  • Xerox is another company supporting Change the Equation through pro bono service, in part through a 50-years long tradition of employees providing hands-on learning experiences in classrooms. Supporting STEM learning serves Xerox's own mission of building a diverse workforce for engineering and increasing the interest of Millennials in pursuing careers in STEM and specifically working at Xerox. Today, the Xerox Science Consultant program puts greater emphasis on bridging gaps in STEM learning opportunities between affluent and urban schools.
  • This year, Salesforce employees have already delivered more than 18,000 hours of pro bono service across a range of efforts, including a collaboration to capture data for a domestic violence campaign, creating a toolkit for prosecuting terrorism in Asia, a website launch to enhance breast cancer treatment, and a project to prevent the spread of ebola in our hospitals.
  • Over the past four years, Deloitte professionals delivered more than 1,000 pro bono projects, providing capacity-building business solutions across the breadth of Deloitte's Consulting, Tax, and Advisory services. One of the sponsors of Pro Bono Week, Deloitte positions its pro bono and skills-based volunteering programs as key components to its commitment to youth education, inspiring future leaders, and to its approach to creating opportunities for veterans.
  • Nielsen Cares calculates its global impact as $10 million delivered through pro bono and in-kind projects around the world across its four priority cause areas: hunger and nutrition, technology, education and diversity and inclusion. This includes efforts such as creating a national food insecurity metric to increase food bank efficiency and reach in Chicago; teaching Mexico City students survey methodologies and opinion measurement techniques; integrating supply chain and distribution processes to increase efficiency for food bank in Hong Kong; and helping a social services organization in Bucharest assess and improve their program operations.

If you want your company to step up to the opportunities of pro bono service, Taproot Foundation's online marketplace Taproot+ connects pro bono professionals with nonprofit organizations, helping to meet a wide variety of needs such as developing a social media strategy, migrating accounting records from Excel to Quickbooks, or developing brand messaging. In its first year alone, Taproot+ has delivered $2 million in donated professional services.

Taproot suggests five things you can do today to join the celebration and spread the pro bono ethic:

  • Consider donating your business skills for good. Learn more here.
  • Encourage three social change organizations you care about (maybe your own!) to check out Taproot+, where these organizations can connect with skilled volunteers today.
  • Has your experience with pro bono service help build communities? Follow @taprootfound on Twitter and tell your story, using #PBW15.
  • Thank your organization's skilled-volunteers by posting a referral on their LinkedIn page or writing a short blog about an outstanding contributor.
  • Post a message to one of Taproot's global partner organizations to acknowledge their work around the world. Learn more here.