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Make Me a Match: Finding Skilled Volunteers + Pro Bono Support

by Molly O'Connell
This post was originally published in 2015 and updated in 2019 to reflect new resources and corrected links.

“Why don’t you just get a volunteer for that?” coffee spillYou’ve probably heard that phrase a million times, and it likely makes you want to throw your coffee in frustration because it’s so much more easily said than done.

That said, there are resources to help you prepare for and find skilled professionals who are eager to tackle meaningful projects.

Are You Ready to Put Skilled Volunteers to Work?

Capacity Commons calls themselves the “one stop shop for skills-based volunteerism.” Avoid common pitfalls by taking advantage of their Readiness Roadmap, which includes an organizational readiness assessment and an outline of the different phases of the process (needs identification, project readiness, sourcing, planning, implementation, evaluation and, of course, celebration!) along with tips for why each phase is important and resources to be successful.

Finding Skilled Volunteers

In addition to sites like VolunteerMaine, VolunteerMatch, Serve.gov, All for Good, and other services designed to help nonprofits and volunteers find one another, there are a growing number of nonprofits dedicated to providing or coordinating pro bono professional expertise to other nonprofits.

Some resources for finding skilled volunteers include:

  • Catchafire – Matches professionals with nonprofits based on their skills, cause interest and time availability by using a framework of “pre-scoped” projects in eight areas. These projects include earned income plans, infographics, annual reports, social media plans, tech systems reviews, market analysis, compensation plans and more.
  • HashtagCharity – Aims to address the growing technology challenges facing nonprofits, which rarely have the expertise in-house to tackle projects. Helps nonprofits define their needs, matches them with appropriate volunteers, and provides support throughout the project.
  • HR Pro Bono Corps – Connects nonprofit leaders with HR professionals for consulting and coaching on talent management issues such as retaining high-performing employees, providing meaningful development opportunities, and delivering effective performance reviews.
  • Taproot+ – A new initiative of Taproot Foundation, this service helps match nonprofits with consultants for short-term, high-impact projects. Nonprofits have the opportunity to interview potential volunteers, and Taproot+ provides support for defining the project, setting a timeline and more.
  • Common Impact focuses on helping companies develop effective community engagement programs.connections with skilled volunteers within your own stakeholder community.
  • MANP – Our members can access limited pro bono assistance, including advice on accounting, technology, legal and risk management issues.

There’s also the DIY approach, finding skilled volunteers through your own networks. There are talented and eager professionals you may already know who could be a great asset to your organization.

A Deeper Dive

Wondering how your organization could be maximizing the use of skilled volunteerism as part of your overall strategy and business model? The Service Enterprise model provides organizations with a structured, in-depth planning and organizational change process to look at internal staff capacity in a new way and leverage skilled volunteers to expand that capacity to achieve your mission. The SE model requires involvement of the chief executive, board members, and senior leadership because the core question is how volunteers can help the agency achieve its strategic goals more effectively and efficiently. Maine Commission for Community Service supports a cadre of trainers who lead groups of agencies through the process. Learn more.

What Have You Tried?

Are you using skilled volunteers, either through a service or on your own? Help your peers. Use the comments section below to share recommendations and lessons learned.

We’re very interested to hear your experiences, and continue to expand this list of organizations dedicated to helping nonprofits leverage skilled volunteering to build capacity.

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