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The Importance of Pro Bono Work and its Return on Your Investment of Time

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How do “they” do it? How do “those people” find the time to commit to pro bono work between the demands of both personal and work life? It may seem difficult to find extra time, but if there is one thing worth reserving a few extra hours a week for, it is pro bono work. Not only does giving back to the community make you feel great, it can present significant benefits for small business owners.

Here are our top six reasons to do pro bono work:

  1. Karmic redemption. Giving back to the community makes you feel good, and what goes around comes around!

  2. To promote your business. Doing pro bono work is a great way to get your business’ name out there. Organizations that receive pro bono work generally are willing to put your company’s name on promotional materials and sing your praises publicly.

  3. Portfolio builder. Not only does pro bono work look great in your portfolio, it is becoming the norm in the business world. In 2013, the state of New York announced that all lawyers applying for the New York State Bar must demonstrate that they have completed at least 50 hours of pro bono legal work in order to be eligible. This requirement has been in effect to this day. Additionally, as a small business owner, being able to display pro bono work in your portfolio will give you an extra competitive edge as potential clients see that you “give back”.

  4. To make a difference. By doing pro bono work for organizations that support causes you are passionate about, you will change your community or nation for the better. Oftentimes, due to your pro bono work, additional jobs are created, much-needed policy is formed, and the nonprofit you work with becomes stronger financially due to your commitment of time.

  5. Networking. You never know who you will meet when doing pro bono work. The volunteer next to you could be observing your work without your knowledge and could be your next big client.

  6. It’s a learning experience. Pro bono work can give you a forum to try something new and expand your skill set within your field. Donating hours to an organization can allow you to feel some more freedom to try a new technique or approach to something without putting you under immense pressure.

Tips for pro bono work:

  • Work pro bono hours into your regular schedule. Whether this means adding a few extra hours onto your work week to sit on a local organization’s board or condensing work in order to keep a normal schedule, planning ahead goes a long way. Try planning ahead to set aside a certain number of hours per week or month for pro bono work.

  • Set goals. It is helpful to set a specific number of pro bono hours as a goal to for each fiscal year. Set a goal that is realistic yet aggressive, and stick to it!

  • Choose to do pro bono work for an organization or cause you are passionate about, and one that receives ample media attention. If you are sitting on a board or contributing hours to an organization you do not genuinely have a vested interest in, chances are, the work you do for that organization will not be of your best quality. The opposite is also true—if you are donating services to a cause you are passionate about, you are more likely to give 100%. You’ll hit a home run if you source an organization that you are passionate about AND one that receives ample media attention. This guarantees that you will be able to meet your intrinsic need to give back while having the confidence that your business name will be seen by the masses through the public relations initiatives associated with the organization you are working with.

  • Create a pro bono policy for your business. Developing a formal donation policy ensures that your small business will stay true to its original intentions by sticking to guidelines. It is also helpful to have a document on hand to give to nonprofits that may approach you. This way, organizations can see if a request for pro bono time is appropriate based on your business’ stated policy without even having to set up a meeting.

  • Market your pro bono work tastefully. We suggest listing the organizations you support in your annual report, or including the total number of pro bono hours you complete in a similar document.

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