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A Story of Pro Bono

A Story of Pro Bono Photo

How a New Year Resolution Became My Fundraising Chair, Marketing Manager, Policy Analyst, Accountant, and Legal Advisor.

A guest blog by Trevor Kaul, Taproot Foundation

Let’s be honest, it’s a hard time of year to avoid clichés.  As you are reading this millions of people are reflecting on how they spent 2012 and making decisions about how they plan to spend their time in 2013.  Most common on those lists are things like, “spending more time with friends and family”, “losing weight”, and, of course, “giving back”. 

In fact, each year over $15 billion worth of time and energy are donated by professionals who want to use their skills to make a difference in their communities.  These people work across a broad spectrum of the sector in areas like human resources, marketing, strategy, IT, law, consumer relations, and more.  Many are willing to do whatever they can to help out…and yet many only end up handing out name tags at a fundraiser or ladling soup at a food kitchen.

Now don’t get me wrong, as an Executive Director previously I had needed and valued the men and women who gave their time to do these necessary and often thankless tasks.  However, I didn’t realize what I was missing out on until I met Justin.

Justin walked in the door through in the usual fashion.  A friend of his volunteered at my organization, had told him about us, and encouraged him to get involved.  Justin, like so many, had made a New Year’s resolution to volunteer somewhere and was willing to do “anything” he could to help.  The more we talked, the more apparent it was that Justin wanted to do something more.  He had 6 years of experience in marketing and sales and kept asking me intelligent questions about our website, newsletter, mail appeals, and finally our fundraising program as a whole.

It was more than a little ironic.  I knew our organization needed fundraising help beyond what our board was prepared to deliver and what I could handle among my other duties.  Yet it took Justin asking me if he could take a look at our fundraising plan before things clicked.  Here was the kind of fresh perspective, energy, and professional experience my organization needed.  Justin came back with a list of recommendations from messaging strategies to special events and became the backbone of my fundraising team for 2 years.

What was even more powerful was how Justin opened my eyes to the potential already around me.  Josh was a law student hungry to learn and apply his skills in a way that would pad his resume, Susan was a professor who knew more about the state legislature than most politicians, Ruth had been an accountant before deciding to stay home with her kids, and Bill…heck, Bill ran a marketing firm!

As your organization heads into 2013, and what is likely to be another tight year economically, I urge you to open your eyes to the possibilities all around you.  If you need help of any kind, chances are it is out there and it’s actually looking for you.  I now work at the Taproot Foundation, an organization dedicated to teaching you how to scope, secure, and manage pro bono for you your organization. 

So, if you can handle the clichés and are ready to use, or be, the “gift that keeps on giving”, visit us at  We can help you learn more about how pro bono can be the best New Year’s resolution yet!



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