A year ago while perusing Twitter posts I ran across a tweet by Taproot Foundation promoting something they branded as the “Pro-Bono Campfire.” This event was to bring together nonprofit organizations and volunteers skilled in graphic design, marketing, strategic planning, finance, IT, HR and other skills sets. This event was a part of their “Pro-Bono Week.” After checking out the details and my calendar, I decided to sign up and share my design skills with a local nonprofit organization on a pro-bono basis since so many of them do such great work on a shoestring budget with limited staffing. Often organizations aren’t able to afford the creation or update of visual design pieces to publicize their efforts and encourage donations and a few hours of ones time can make an immediate world of difference for them and allow them to continue helping others.
The day of the event arrived and in just 4 short hours I worked with Anacostia Watershed Society, a local organization whose mission is to make the Anacostia River—the other river flowing through our nation’s capital— a clean and healthy place to live and visit once more. My task for the day was to redesign their outdated brochure which they used to inform many of their work, urge donations and draw in volunteers. Another volunteer was supposed to pitch in and help with copy writing but never made it to the event so we rolled on. I worked on the design, helped with copy writing and editing and the quick turnaround project turned out beautifully.
Over the past year Taproot has had many more volunteer opportunities and I have participated in several.
Enjoying this work with Taproot I decided to become a Pro-Bono Consultant or PBC on a website redesign project. For that project instead of being the graphic designer I am working in the capacity of Project Manager, a role for which Taproot provides excellent training. This website redesign falls under the Service Grant program where well established organizations with a certain level of infrastructure qualify to have a longterm project completed by a team of PBCs.
This past week was Taproot’s 2014 Pro-Bono Week and I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Youth Access, a very small organization that isn’t large enough to quality for the Service Grant program. This organization has a staff of four members who wear multiple hats while serving as the sole entity in Washington, DC, that is providing mediation, mentorship and conflict resolution services to DC youth involved in the juvenile justice system. These services often assist youth in finding alternative corrective solutions for law violations preventing incarceration. Additionally, through their conflict resolution efforts, they are sometimes able to deescalate situations, prevent retaliatory violence and/or avoid the involvement of others who are outside of the situation that may infuse negative energy.
My task on this project was the creation of a social media strategy that would produce long lasting results with minimal effort and get Youth Access engaged in conversations surround the issues they focus on including the School to Prison Pipeline, Restorative Justice, Truancy Reduction and other issues. With a little bit of research and pre-planning I was able to identify some problem areas with their current Social Media accounts, useful tools and accounts they should interact with to get them moving in the right direction. During our session I shared a robust plan of attack, introduced some great social media management tools and assisted in setting measurable goals. Many of my suggestions have been implemented and Youth Access is off to a great start reengaging their current audience and gaining new followers.
As a part of Pro-Bono Week, Taproot had their Up Root Party, an annual celebration recognizing their PBCs, sponsors and the nonprofits we all assist. I attended the event for the first time this past week and was surprised with an award recognizing my work with Taproot over the past year. It was such an honor to receive this award as I am one of many PBCs and the work that we are all doing is so very rewarding. One great thing about this work is that it often provides the opportunity to do something outside of the box that some of our regular employment opportunities confine us to.
If you happen to have the desire to provide your skills and talents to an organization and give back to your community I encourage you to check out Taproot Foundation. They have offices in DC, LA, NY, Chicago, San Francisco and they are expanding globally. They facilitate great work and I am sure you will also find it incredibly rewarding!