There are many different ways to engage skilled volunteers effectively. Common models include:
A conversation is held with an expert to get key strategic guidance on a challenge that your team is prepared to implement internally. Common Impact’s Hotline Support is great way to access this type of quick advice from corporate experts on an accelerated timeline.
A single volunteer or team of skilled volunteers engage with your organization on a defined project challenge for a single day of intensive consulting or implementation support.
Longer Term Support
A volunteer or team of volunteers who are experts in a particular area (marketing, HR, technology) work on an extended, time-bound project (typically two to six months) that produces a defined result or “deliverable.”
A professional receives approval for a formal sabbatical and works full-time for your organization on a specific core challenge or project, typically for six months to one year.
An experienced, skilled volunteer engages in a high-level, strategic project as a pathway for serving on your Board of Directors.
One-on-One Coaching and Mentoring
A senior leader works with a director or executive at your organization to deliver high-level coaching or mentoring on a strategic or early-stage challenge.
Need help selecting the right model for you? Consider the following factors:
Project-Based versus Ongoing Support
We encourage organizations to identify a tangible “outcome” for every pro bono engagement so that you’re able to ensure forward momentum and measure your success against clear indicators. That said, some needs will be better served by project-based partnerships whereas others merit ongoing engagement models (e.g. Board Service, Executive Mentorship).
Quick Hit versus Long-Term Support
Your project may require a brief consultation (one to two hours) like through Common Impact’s Hotline Support. Alternatively, support could from a single, intensive day of work (five to eight hours). Larger pro bono projects may last for three weeks to six months or include ongoing strategic support.
Virtual versus Local Support
Some projects may be easily completed via virtual collaboration, opening your organization up to a wider range of volunteer sources. Other projects may require local knowledge or in-person, on-site collaboration. Many will merit a mix of the two.
Individual versus Team Support
If your project requires a focused set of skills (e.g. PR Strategy) it will be easily accomplished by one qualified volunteer. If you need a wider range of skills (e.g. PR Strategy, Digital Marketing, Website Development), consider working with a team of volunteers.
Participatory versus Advisory Support
Consider whether your needs will require participatory implementation support (e.g. software development) or advisory planning support (e.g. change management). We recommend ensuring that your project is either participatory or advisory, as projects with both components can be hard to staff with the right volunteer(s). If your needs cross into both areas, consider slicing them into two distinct projects or being very intentional about recruiting volunteer(s) with both orientations.
Expert versus Intermediate Support
Skilled volunteers can engage with your organization at all different points in their professional careers. Consider whether your needs require “expert” support (i.e. an individual who is capable of training others in their core discipline) or more “intermediate” support (i.e. an individual who is capable of executing the work autonomously). Matching the needs of your project to the expertise of your volunteer(s) will help ensure you’re getting the product you need while providing an engaging volunteer experience.
For more tips, check out this resource from MovingWorlds about best practices and considerations for building effective partnerships with skilled volunteers.