October 21, 2017

Asking for Advice

Non Profit Consulting and Training - Wendy Biro-Pollard 003I just read the article, Is Your Association Courageous Enough to Ask for Advice? The premise is that associations should be broadening their conversation and engaging industry practitioners regardless of their member status. The article went on to say that associations don’t react to disruptive innovations until it’s too late because they are focused on fulfilling the needs of their current members while ignoring the needs of future members.

I’ve been working for, speaking to and consulting with healthcare volunteer programs throughout the US for several decades. I’ve watched most auxiliaries, in particular, peak about twenty years ago. At that time, the majority of hospital’s required member-only-status before an individual could be a volunteer. Today, as the average age of many auxiliary members creeps up to 75 years, those barriers to member-only service are finally breaking down and hospital administrators are realizing that volunteers can play an important role in solving strategic issues such as enhancing patient-centered care and raising HCAPHS scores. But, unfortunately, for some auxiliaries, they’ve waited too long to engage in critical conversations, strategically plan and prepare for their future members. Many are now disbanding or being pushed aside. And, as they go, so goes the careers of some hospital volunteer directors.

Surveys and research have long shown that next generation volunteers often want short term, flexible, and project-based opportunities. They want lots of choice when selecting their volunteer position, and are increasingly saying that they will volunteer if they can utilize their skills and talents. While this trend was identified at least twenty years ago, most organizations have been slow to offer multiple-choice volunteer opportunities.

The latest disruptive innovation in the volunteer engagement world has been gaining steam thanks to the Taproot Foundation. Taproot’s mission is to make “pro bono business talent available to organizations that seek to improve our society.”

Pro bono — short for pro bono publico, “for the public good” — has come to mean professional services delivered at low or no cost to social change organizations. Taproot defines it as professional services (marketing, legal guidance, human resources, fundraising, technology, financial consulting, and so on) donated to a nonprofit to further its mission.

Taproot estimates that professionals donate over $15 billion a year in pro bono services—that’s four times the amount donated by corporate foundations every year. And, many businesses with a supply of skilled professionals are being overlooked by cash-strapped nonprofits.

A 2006 Deloitte / Points of Light Volunteer IMPACT study found that “77 percent of nonprofit leaders believe that skilled volunteers could significantly improve their organization’s business practices, yet only 12 percent of nonprofits actually put volunteers to work on such assignments. Furthermore, this study found that 40 percent of volunteers actively look for opportunities to apply their professional skills.”

One of Taproot’s solutions to the problem of underutilized pro bono talent has been to publish Powered by Pro Bono–a step-by-step guide to securing and managing pro bono resources through sound project management. Taproot is also working with LinkedIn to connect skilled professionals with nonprofit organizations.

Why are so few nonprofits rolling out the welcome mat to our community’s professional and trades people, entrepreneurs and retirees? We have laws that say nonprofits must have a board of directors. Should there be a law to compel nonprofits to utilize skill based and pro bono talent? Of course not, but I wonder if, at some point, foundations will be looking for pro bono utilization as a measure of who gets their financial support.

So, how do we create the groundwork for a future that’s already arrived? How do we plan for this latest innovative disruption?

If, as Taproot says, the pro bono movement holds the keys to innovative solutions, do we have the courage to engage in greater conversations and get advice from more community members and volunteers–both inside and outside the nonprofit sector. Are we willing to open our doors wider by asking these individuals to lead a team, manage a project or serve on a task force or advisory council?

Boomers are retiring. LinkedIn professionals say they will volunteer if they can utilize their skills. More than 500 companies across the country have committed over $2 billion worth of skills-based volunteer services to nonprofits. A movement is a foot. More and more of us are out there—just waiting to be asked!

 

Related articles:

Is Your Association Courageous Enough to Ask for Advice? by Deirdre Reid on June 12, 2013. Posted in Association Best Practices, Social Media

#SHRMAdvice- Learning to Serve a New Audience, Paul Herbert

A Billion Plus Change Inspires Largest Commitment of Pro Bono Service in History, Post by Yvonne Siu, June 21, 2013

Beyond Cash:  Taproot Foundation to Collaborate with Hewlett Packard and LinkedIn to Build Online Pro Bono Marketplace,  Press Release