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10 Years Later: The Evolution of Corporate Pro Bono and Our Opportunities for the Future

An interview with Taproot Foundation's Lindsay Firestone Gruber

SOURCE: Taproot Foundation


The Taproot Foundation's Advisory Services team works closely with companies to help them develop strategies to engage their talent in pro bono service. Our advisory practice was founded 10 years ago by Lindsay Firestone Gruber, Taproot’s Chief Program Officer, who saw the potential for companies to be more strategic about how they engage their people to help nonprofits succeed. Back in 2008, corporate pro bono was largely nascent outside of law firms and professional services companies. A decade later, the landscape of corporate pro bono is thriving. Kim Gillman, National Director of Advisory Services, sat down with Lindsay to reflect on the decade and to explore what’s next for the field.

Kim: Why did you decide to start Advisory Services?

Lindsay: I have a personal and professional passion for helping strengthen nonprofit organizations and their ability to support our communities. For most of us in the nonprofit sector, it is simultaneously encouraging and frustrating to realize that many organizational obstacles we face are easily preventable or overcome through existing solutions – they are just often inaccessible.

When I first joined the Taproot Foundation in 2004 it was still a relatively small start-up. However, it was already abundantly clear that Taproot had taken a truly innovative, yet wonderfully simple approach to this problem: use the expertise, training, and tools that are often present in abundance in the private sector and connect them in a thoughtful and structured way to the existing, parallel needs in the nonprofit sector.

Taproot’s own flagship program was an excellent proof point of the power of pro bono services when they’re designed well, and word spread quickly. Companies were interested in having their employees participate, but I saw an opportunity for even greater impact.  By working directly with companies to design their own programs, we could use the knowledge and best practices we’d honed over the years to build customized, sustainable programs. Ten years later, we’ve helped over 85 companies take advantage of their unique expertise to provide widespread impact for social sector organizations.

Kim: What is one of the most exciting changes you’ve seen in the field of pro bono over the past decade?

Lindsay: When we first started Advisory Services, most of our time went to education. We were often answering the “what” – what is pro bono service, what does it do for nonprofits, what do employees gain, and what are the benefits for a company. Now we spend less time on education and more time on innovation. We’re often answering the “how” – how do we take pro bono to the next level, how do we drive deeper impact for nonprofits, how can it be integrated into employees’ professional development, how can it strengthen our reputation, etc.

Today, I am so proud and heartened to see a field of CSR and now HR professionals at companies who deeply believe in the win-win of pro bono programs to help organizations in their communities while also providing great benefit to their employees. To me, this helps affirm that programs like this will not be treated as a fad. Instead, pro bono has become engrained as a core means of mutual impact across sectors that will only continue to grow and provide more access to these critically needed services. 

Kim: Are there any nuggets of wisdom you’ve gained over the years that you wish you could share with all companies?

Lindsay: My advice is always to treat pro bono projects like projects you’re staffing at your own company. The real impact—both for the nonprofit, but also for your own employees—comes from having the right expertise matched to the need at hand and not compromising that in the name of employee development. The opportunity to stretch and grow skills comes from the unique environment in which your employees will need to operate and the different ways they need to use their skills in a new and challenging context.  

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About Taproot Foundation
Taproot Foundation, a national nonprofit, connects nonprofits and social change organizations with
skilled volunteers through pro bono service. Taproot is creating a world where organizations dedicated to
social change have full access—through pro bono service—to the marketing, strategy, HR, and IT resources they
need to be most effective. Since 2001, our Advisory Services practice has partnered with over 85 leading companies
across the globe to develop best-in-class, customized, in-house pro bono initiatives. 

Tweet me: .@TaprootFound reflects on the evolution of corporate #probono over the last decade as their Advisory Services practice turns 10.

Contact Info:

Advisory Services
Taproot Foundation

KEYWORDS: Taproot Foundation

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