News and analysis
October 27, 2014

Taproot Foundation Starts Online Matchmaker for Charities Seeking Pro Bono Help

The Taproot Foundation has created an online marketplace it hopes will become the of pro bono, linking skilled volunteers with nonprofits that need assistance in areas like marketing, database design, and strategic planning.

The new site, Taproot+, allows nonprofits to describe projects needing help. Taproot Foundation employees will review proposals and help improve any unclear project descriptions.

Nonprofits often have a hard time explaining what they need, says Liz Hamburg, Taproot’s chief executive.

"They’ll say, ‘Oh, I need marketing help’ or "Oh, I need help with my HR system,’ " she says. "And they won’t really be able to turn that into a scope of work and a project with specific job descriptions."

Step-by-Step Planning

People looking to share their skills can browse projects on the site. Some charities ask for in-person help, while other projects can use volunteers working remotely. In some cases, Taproot will post the projects on sites run by partner organizations, like the LinkedIn for Volunteers, to help find the right volunteer. As the site grows, the group plans to work closely with other pro bono organizations, like NPower and DataKind.

"We want to make sure that we’re helping on the front end," says Ms. Hamburg. "But once that project description is created, we want to make sure that the nonprofit is accessing the best talent out there, no matter where it is.

After a nonprofit and pro bono volunteer agree to work together, Taproot+ helps them plan the steps of the project and set deadlines for milestones, which are tracked on the site.

Taproot has offices in five cities and has shepherded pro bono relationships for 13 years. The group hopes the new site will expand its work nationwide and significantly increase the number of nonprofits that partner with skilled volunteers.

"We’ve done over 3,000 projects, but that’s 3,000 out of hundreds of thousands of nonprofits," says Ms. Hamburg.

She added, "We can take the best practices that we’ve developed and enable others to go out and to do it themselves with a little bit of coaching and help from us."

Send an e-mail to Nicole Wallace.