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Taproot Foundation Announces Pro Bono Marketplace

By Zach Halper - January 23, 2013

A new website that seeks to function as a marketplace for pro bono services was launched by The Taproot Foundation in New York City.

Pro bono is defined as any professional work done free of charge or at a reduced fee in the spirit of public service. A 2011 study by FTI Consulting and the Taproot Foundation indicated that the use and confidence in pro bono work was increasing, but that nonprofits were having difficulty defining their needs and gaining access to providers to meet those needs. Some 92 percent of the organizations surveyed indicated that they needed more pro bono support.

Emmett Mehan, the Taproot Foundation’s associate manager of national partnerships, said that previous methods of seeking pro bono work through the foundation were limited. You could either apply through their service grant program. Organizations could also use the Foundation’s advisory service practice to be served by a corporate client that the Foundation helped to develop a pro bono program of their own. With each of these choices, Mehan said, the client was “dependant on us.”

“In the last few years, it’s been a priority to help nonprofits access the pro bono marketplace independently, and that’s the whole basis of this new platform,” he said.

Using the new site, users will be able to search more than 300 pro bono providers, from companies to universities. Developed with support from Microsoft and HP, it also allows organizations to more easily define their needs by allowing them to browse the 120 most common pro bono projects and learn about the scope of each project as well as the benefits, risks, and skills necessary to ensure successful engagements.

“One of the hardest things about our job is that we have to decline applicants, and the best thing about this website is we now have a place to direct people to so they can get this info themselves,” said Mehan.

The Taproot Foundation has also partnered with the social network site LinkedIn to help teach nonprofits how to best approach providers. By clicking on one of the many categories of pro bono providers listed on the site, users are directed to a page that lists the motivations of the provider, tips on how to approach them, and a slide show that explains how to use LinkedIn to identify the right pro bono talent for your projects.

“LinkedIn is the ideal partner to help nonprofits secure high-quality pro bono resources,” said Aaron Hurst, president and founder of the Taproot Foundation. “The combination of Taproot’s experience and learning from the last dozen years and the largest network of professionals on the web will make pro bono resources accessible to thousands more nonprofits each year.”

“It was sort of a mutual courtship,” said Mehan on how the partnership began. “It was sort of a synergy that arose when we realized that their mission was to match talent with opportunity, and that is a component of our mission as well.”

The Foundation has also released a new book called “Powered by Pro Bono: A Nonprofit’s Guide to Scoping, Securing, Managing, and Scaling Pro Bono Resources,” to be used in conjunction with the new online tools. The book, published by Jossey-Bass, shares Taproot’s advice for nonprofits garnered from serving 1,600 nonprofits, training 13,500 professionals, and designing 20 corporate pro bono programs.

Founded in 2001, the Taproot Foundation engages design, marketing, IT, strategic management, and human resources professionals in pro bono to build the infrastructure of other nonprofits. Hurst was named to The NonProfit Times2012 Power and Influence Top 50, which lists the top nonprofit executives in the country.

You can view the new platform and purchase the book by visiting http://www.taprootfoundation.org

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