For 5 years (2005 to 2010) I was a consultant on pro bono branding and communications projects for several nonprofit clients through Taproot Foundation. Taproot "drives social change by leading, mobilizing, and engaging professionals in pro bono service." It does that by acting as a consulting firm or creative/technical agency, connecting its volunteer professionals with worthy nonprofits who apply for service grants for marketing, design, technology, management or strategic planning engagements.
It was a highlight of my career, and I encourage it for everyone. Here's an interview I did with them back in the day that gives a feel of why it's rewarding and impactful.
What was your Taproot Foundation project experience?
New York City Financial Network Action Consortium promotes the right of all residents to save, borrow, and invest through access to affordable financial services. Wordy name, but worthy mission.
Our project was really two: First we developed a new name and brand direction for their business lending program, which connects with a market mostly underserved by banks and other institutions. Then we created a brochure incorporating the new name and brand. Both were well received by the client and Taproot Foundation volunteer team. Afterwards, I immediately started a new Taproot project, so it must have made a good impression.
How have you grown from your pro bono work?
I cultivated an even finer appreciation of the need that Taproot Foundation is seeking to address: providing support to worthy community organizations that have little or no resources. Since I now work primarily with nonprofits and public interest-oriented projects, it also strengthened my portfolio and credentials.
What were the biggest challenges?
Staying on schedule and keeping everyone motivated is always a challenge with pro bono work. But I was impressed by the passion, energy, and time that everyone devoted to what was a relatively unglamorous, unpaid project.
How can the business community and nonprofit sector strengthen one another?
The corporate community can often offer a more sophisticated skill set and structure, as well as broader market insights. Nonprofits demonstrate that there's more to a job than the bottom line - money is not the only motivator. Their work can have real impact on people in the community, not just the boardroom or stock exchange.
What community issues hit home and what did you learn from the project?
There are so many things that need addressing in all communities in this vast country. I prefer to think holistically; more than specific issues, I think it's important to empower people — through education and information, resources, quality of life, inspiration, and hope. That's why I like volunteering with Taproot Foundation — their grantees cover a range of areas.
What do you do when you’re not doing pro bono?
Reading, hiking, meditating, traveling, hanging in cafes, observing, learning, people-watching, and acting the flaneur.