Finding the right skills-based volunteer is typically a more involved process than finding a hands-on volunteer. You’re not just looking for an alignment of availability, but also an alignment of expertise, perspective, and interest. Don’t let this intimidate you – there are several common sources of pro bono support, which will simplify your search for the right volunteer. If you feel you need additional guidance to land a volunteer that suits your needs, you might also consider leveraging a Volunteer Recruiter to support you with this process.
As you consider the source that will serve you best, we recommend beginning with individuals or institutions with which you already have connections. It may be easier to broach the subject of receiving pro bono services with a board member, donor, volunteer, or corporate partner who is already invested in your organization’s success.
When considering your volunteer options, be discriminating until you’ve found a strong two-way fit. Read more about assessing volunteer fit here.
Common Sources of Skills-Based Volunteers
Begin your volunteer search with the individuals in your network who are already supporters of your organization. Think broadly about the skillsets that are in your existing circles and consider structuring your conversations with prospective directors, volunteers, and donors differently so that you can open the door for a multi-pronged relationship that includes pro bono.
Your Board Of Directors
Hotline Support from Experts
You can access quick, strategic support through a “hotline” to corporate professionals skilled in areas like risk management, crisis communications, IT planning, and more. When time is at a premium for both nonprofits and volunteers, hotlines – like the one offered through Common Impact – provide rapid response support for crisis situations or a quick injection of advice for capacity-strapped organizations.
Freelancers, Retirees, and Unemployed Professionals
Freelancers, retirees, and unemployed professionals represent a group of highly skilled individuals with significant flexibility. Freelancers and unemployed professionals are often seeking opportunities to build their portfolio or resume and many retirees seek purpose-driven work after they have ended their first career. Consider the following sources to tap into these groups.
Online Matching Portals
There are a number of platforms that exist with the sole mission of connecting you with volunteers. Post your project on one or multiple of the following platforms to find volunteers with the skills you seek.
Online Job Boards
Social sector job boards often feature volunteering opportunities as well. Posting your desired volunteer profile on a job board is a great way to get significant visibility and find interested talent due to the high foot traffic on these sites and the resume and skill-building benefits that pro bono volunteering offers for job seekers.
Social media functions as a marketplace and a vehicle for practical connections. Utilize your organization’s or your personal media channels to share your organization’s skills-based volunteering opportunities with a broad network.
IntermediariesSelect organizations specialize in facilitating successful skills-based volunteering partnerships. If you desire a more guided pro bono journey, consider getting in touch with an intermediary who can facilitate and oversee your pro bono project. These organizations include pro bono specialists (Common Impact, Taproot Foundation, PYXERA Global), as well as groups that offer pro bono services as part of broader volunteerism programming (such as some United Way Chapters and the Points of Light Global Network).
CompaniesOver 50% of corporations offer a formal skills-based volunteering program. Companies are a great source of talent and often seek philanthropic and employee engagement opportunities. Start conversations with the companies already in your network to uncover the full suite of skills they have in-house. If you need to forge a new relationship, consider local businesses (check your Chamber of Commerce), large companies with a presence in your area (e.g. Charles Schwab), and/or companies that offer pro bono support along with a desired product or service (e.g. Salesforce).
Professional Services FirmsMost professional services firms include pro bono services in their portfolio. Many firms will invite you to submit a Request for Proposal (RFP) for their services or will offer another formal avenue through which you can solicit pro bono support.
Professional SchoolsMany professional schools offer students paid internships at social sector organizations or integrate pro bono consulting into their coursework. Get in touch with a school's career center to understand what pre-existing programs your project might fit into and/or reach out to an intermediary organization, like Inspiring Capital, that connects MBA fellows to social sector organizations.
Professional AssociationsThere are a number of national or local professional associations that serve as hubs for individuals with specific areas of expertise. An online search for associations in your region and area of need (e.g. HR, Legal) will reveal which of these associations have local chapters that you can reach out to. Examples of common associations include:
Accounting Professionals Associations
Human Resources Associations
Utilize this resource from Taproot Foundation to understand the skills associated with different job titles.