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Giving Back Pro Bono Style: Via Taproot

volunteer, consulting, taproot, foundation

Today I’m going to connect two former posts into one new example.  Of a way you can give back to the world, keep your skills fresh and meet a bunch of great new people.

Sound good?

The first post was about volunteering during your job search.  The second on the pros and cons of consulting while also looking for work.

But this is less about a job search supplement.  It is a broader idea that you can embrace throughout your career.

This is about an organization that helps you give back effectively and supports you fully along the way.  Introducing the Taproot Foundation.

To do so properly though, I did two things.  Actually, I interviewed two people.  One from Taproot and one who is currently working on two Taproot projects (called service grants).

Who is Taproot?

Taproot is a nonprofit organization that makes business talent available to organizations working to improve society.  Their mission is to lead, mobilize and engage professionals in pro bono service that drives social change.

Here is the first of two interviews:

Anne Diaz – Taproot Foundation

I spoke with Anne Diaz, a consultant with Taproot’s advisory services program (the group that helps corporations build and manage their own pro bono programs).  She started with Taproot three years ago in the San Francisco Bay Area as a Program Manager and then went to become Taproot’s first person on the ground in Los Angeles.  As a Program Manager, Anne ran and supported over 50 individual programs.  Working to keep the pro bono project teams and the non-profit organizations happy and on the same page.

For Taproot it starts with a need. That need is then covered by a team of 5 expert consultants (you) who work with the non-profit for a period of six months (3-5 hours per week) on a specific project.  And the needs are great.  According to Anne, there are over 10,000 non-profits in Los Angeles alone.  The good news, she said, is that teaming up to fill the need “brings out the very best in people” and leaves them “more thoughtful and compassionate as business professionals”.

I asked Anne about the commitment and whether working professionals were viewed any differently for projects than those in transition.  The key, she said, is that potential pro bono consultants “see volunteering in a larger context”.  It’s not just about having something to do while looking for work.  “What’s crucial is to have the right motivation and engagement” so that if you do find a job during a project, you maintain your commitment.

So if you are working, get your boss to approve your involvement.  If you are in transition, make sure you are doing it for all the right reasons.  And, by the way, 3-5 hours a week will not hurt your networking schedule (a potential “con” of too much consulting).

What are they looking for in a pro bono consultant?

There are 16 different types of projects and 4 key areas where a team will focus.  The four areas are:

  1. Marketing
  2. IT
  3. Human Resources
  4. Strategy

The minimum criteria is three years of professional experience in a related field and a passion for making a difference.  Got that?

If interested, the first step is to fill out an application. According to Anne, this should take 15-30 minutes. You’ll be asked for contact information, a bit about why you are interested and your resume.  Make sure your resume is updated as it is used as a major tool in their selection process.

You’ll know whether Taproot sees a match in 7-10 days.  And, unlike a traditional job application, they follow-up with everyone.

Finally I asked Anne to explain “why Taproot?” instead going right to your local charity.  Where you might be able to get started volunteering tomorrow.

Here are 4 reasons why Taproot makes sense for anyone interested in pro bono consulting:

  1. With Taproot you have a continued connection to an organization that has run hundreds of projects and act as corporate support for the local project team.
  2. There are always challenges in working with non-profits including a desire to fix all the problems (when really there’s only time to fix one).  Taproot keeps the team focused.
  3. Taproot is there to mediate any disagreements or issues.  To help keep the project on a positive path.
  4. A lot of people don’t know where to give or how to find a good charity.  Taproot screens each non-profit and reduces your risk of getting on an unproductive project.

To learn more about pro bono consulting and the Taproot foundation, check out the Taproot Foundation website and their detailed FAQ.  Very helpful.

Up next? My interview with Larisa Gurnick.  A senior executive in transition and a current Taproot pro bono consultant.  Learn from our conversation whether pro bono consulting is for you.

Written by: Tim Tyrell-Smith
Categories: Work and Life

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