One of the unfortunate realities of working in the nonprofit sector is struggling to find support for the organizational infrastructure necessary to deliver on your mission. While the corporate space spends about 35% annually on critical business functions, information technology (IT), human resources (HR), or marketing, the social sector invests just 2% in these same areas. 

Thankfully, the growing trend of skills-based volunteerism can be a resource to help address this chronic funding gap. In the last few years, 4 million professionals and counting have indicated they would like to donate their skills to a nonprofit via LinkedIn. That’s encouraging to hear as Common Impact research indicates that 72% of nonprofits believe they could increase their impact through pro bono service. 

But how do nonprofits make the most of this new resource, especially if they are new to pro bono?

Enter Capacity Commons, a one-stop shop for skills-based volunteerism. This new, free online platform provides nonprofits with resources, interactive tools, and a network to help them understand how pro bono service can best support their organization, design and implement a skilled volunteer project, and measure the immediate and long-term impact of this work. 

Capacity Commons is a new one-stop shop for skills-based volunteerism. Nonprofits are encouraged to visit the site at capacitycommons.org to access tools and resources to guide them step-by-step through a successful pro bono project. 

Developed in partnership with skilled service leaders Charles Schwab, Points of Light, United Way, Pyxera Global, Taproot Foundation, CreateAthon and the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, Capacity Commons encourages nonprofits of all shapes, sizes, and volunteer experience levels to leverage pro bono support by providing a step-by-step guide through the process. 

Step 1: Learn about skills-based volunteering and how to apply a volunteer’s business talents to your organization’s capacity challenge effectively. Pro bono service can help your organization access experts without hiring new staff or bringing in a contractor. 

Step 2: Prepare your organization for pro bono support by understanding how to best engage your board, leadership, and staff. Organizational preparedness is a critical component to a successful skills-based volunteer project, and the new online tool will walk you through questions about strategy, leadership, and funding to help determine if you are ready to engage in pro bono work and provide resources to help prepare for skilled volunteers – now or in the future. 

Step 3: Scope a skilled volunteer project that will address your organization’s capacity needs and help you recruit the best volunteer for the work. Scope creep and shifting priorities or timelines can easily derail a skills-based volunteer engagement. Using the resources available on Capacity Commons can help avoid frustration and ensure a smooth project management process, because even when services are free of charge, pro bono support still requires staff commitment. 

Step 4: Source volunteers through a variety of channels like LinkedIn or TapRoot Plus. These recruitment resources are especially important for organizations located in areas, where finding businesses interested in supplying skilled volunteers may be a challenge. 

Step 5: Implement a project with help from volunteer and project management tools and templates that can guide your team through the project from start to finish – all while supporting staff in developing project management skills.

Step 6: Evaluate and measure results of your skilled volunteer project. Understanding and communicating both the immediate and long-term impact of a pro bono project is one of the most important parts of the process as it can help to solidify partnerships and ensure on-going volunteer support for your organization. An interactive calculator will help you find the market value of your volunteer engagement, allowing you to share impactful stories that include data. 

Step 7: Repeat the process to build skills-based volunteerism as an on-going resource for your organization. When done well, pro bono support can be an excellent opportunity for your organization to engage a variety of community members – as volunteers and advocates for your cause! 

Our hope is the Capacity Commons enables organizations to build experience with skilled volunteers, making engaging pro bono services easier to access and more frequently put to work in strengthening the social sector. Please visit capacitycommons.org, and share your feedback! 

About the Author(s)

Danielle Holly CEO Common Impact

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