3 Keys to Pitching Pro Bono Opportunities for Your Nonprofit | npENGAGE

3 Keys to Pitching Pro Bono Opportunities for Your Nonprofit

By on Aug 20, 2019


Pro Bono work

Over the last year, we’ve done our best to extol the benefits of skills-based volunteerism to npEngage readers, offering best practices for and case studies on pro bono service. From the response you’ve provided, we know many of you are eager to engage in this work and are looking for the best way to approach potential skilled volunteers – either as individuals or through a corporate partnership.

With volunteerism and employee engagement on the rise, your nonprofit can take advantage of this trend by offering a skilled volunteer opportunity rather than a traditional day of hands-on service. In fact, skills-based volunteerism has emerged in response to both corporate and nonprofit desires to make the most out of community service. Leveraging a volunteer’s talents and skills set, in addition to their time, can exponentially increase positive impact for your organization.

At Common Impact, we’ve identified three keys that will help you confidently structure a pro bono project, identify organizational challenges your potential partner could help solve, and propose a skills-based volunteer engagement that meets your nonprofit’s needs and supports the interest of the volunteers.

  1. First, your organization should understand trends in corporate community engagement. The business case for pro bono is a great tool for nonprofit staff to use when looking to steer the conversation and engagement towards a skills-based model.

Companies are increasingly focused on supporting the professional development of their employees and helping them engage in causes that they care about most. Employees often select their employer based on their record of community service and their desire to develop a purpose-driven career. More than 75% of companies now engage in social impact initiatives, and pro bono represents a significant and growing share of these programs – more than 50% at last count by CECP. Pro bono provides companies with a way to simultaneously invest in their employees’ workplace skills and talents, engage their employees in value-driven work and deliver on their organization’s community goals.

Check out Step 1 – Learn about skills-based volunteerism on Capacity Commons to get more information on the importance of pro bono service.

  1. Second, knowledge of different models of pro bono service to identify which will work for your organization and your needs.

There are several ways you can engage volunteers in pro bono. Which model is best will depend on the unique match between your organization’s needs and your volunteer group’s goals and requirements for engagement. Is your executive director steering the organization through a particularly challenging time? A full-time executive coach from the ranks of your corporate partner’s leadership could provide critical guidance and support. Has your organization just finished re-rebranding? A large group of marketing volunteers could spend the day updating your collateral to reflect your new brand. Is your IT on its last leg? A few technology volunteers could work together over time to assess your technology needs and design the ideal infrastructure for your operating environment.

Step 3 – Scope you project on Capacity Commons can help you with finding the right fit for a skills-based volunteer engagement.

  1. Third, a framework for approaching a corporate partner and building a partnership that delivers measurable value to your organization.

To lead this conversation, you will need to investigate your corporate partner’s overall approach to community impact and their specific goals and requirements for this engagement. How does your partner envision and measure success in a social impact initiative? You must also be ready to communicate your organization’s needs, and what type of volunteer engagement you can support. A successful engagement will achieve a strategic alignment between these elements and will allow you to communicate meaningful results.

One way to ensure you are creating an impactful project is to measure the value with the tools and resources available in Step 6 – Evaluate on Capacity Commons.

With the quick check-list above and the tools and resources available on Capacity Commons,  we hope you have the confidence to guide interested volunteers and partners towards service opportunities that will make a lasting impact on your organization and your shared community. As always, please share any additional advice you may have on engaging volunteer groups or corporate partners in skilled service in the comments below!


Danielle Holly is CEO of Common Impact, an organization that designs programs that direct companies most strategic philanthropic asset – their people – to the seemingly intractable social challenges they’re best positioned to address. Danielle has supported hundreds of nonprofit organizations on positioning and branding strategies to more effectively scale their models of social impact.  In addition, Danielle has helped numerous corporations navigate the new era in corporate social responsibility and skills-based volunteering, including global powerhouses JPMorgan Chase, Charles Schwab, Marriott International, and Fidelity Investments. She is a contributing writer for Nonprofit Quarterly on strategic corporate engagement.  She is a member of the NationSwell Council, and has served on the Board of Directors for the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network and Net Impact NYC. You can reach her via email at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @dholly8.

Comments (12)

  • Alicia Barevich says:

    It’s important to gain pro-bono services. Thanks for these tips!

  • KaLeigh says:

    Excellent points. Thank you!

  • Sage says:

    I love that this is step #1. So true!! “Pro bono provides companies with a way to simultaneously invest in their employees’ workplace skills and talents, engage their employees in value-driven work and deliver on their organization’s community goals.”

  • Nicole Holt says:

    Such great resources for meeting organizations’ needs. Thanks!

  • Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing your insights, Danielle. Partnership is key for us. We make sure that our mission aligns with the business, organization or individual we are partnered with and vice versa. This makes a win/win for both.

  • S. Watson says:

    Great post. Partnership is so important!

  • Rachel Bailey says:

    Every time I see a post on skills-based volunteerism I think back to how incredibly essential the pro-bono services of one of our corporate partners was to the success of our CRM database implementation. We could not have done it without them and now I am a huge proponent of these kinds of partnerships!

  • arturo sayco says:

    I like the “skills-based volunteerism”. I believe it is important to match volunteers’ talents with that of entity they want to support. Thanks for this wonderful insight! Aloha

  • Amy D. says:

    Absolutely did not realize this: More than 75% of companies now engage in social impact initiatives. Thanks for calling attention to this stat!

  • Shelly Gammieri says:

    Thank you for this follow-up with actionable advice to implement skills-based volunteer projects for our organizations. It looks like there are several resources linked in the article. Could anyone share a specific example or case-study implementing the three keys?

  • Claudia says:

    Excellent points, thank you!

  • JoAnn says:

    Some thought provoking ideas.

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