Skilled/Pro bono volunteering
Most volunteering requires some kind of skill. Even sorting donated clothing requires some reading and critical thinking skills. Bagging rice requires scooping and pouring skills.
According to the Corporation for National and Community Service, Skilled or pro bono volunteering refers to companies and individuals volunteering their professional skills to assist nonprofit organizations in creating or improving their business practices.
Professionals engage the community with diverse and unique skills
While most volunteering requires skill, it's important to highlight opportunities for professionals to lend their specialized skills to the community through volunteering.
Also, "skills" are not only practicing law, medicine, business, technology, and construction. The spectrum of skills includes interpersonal skills like employing empathy and patience, public speaking, mediating conflicts; and creative skills like crafting and theater.
So while one volunteer might have significant accounting experience, another may be adept at taking large complex problems and breaking them down into concrete, tangible steps.
Both volunteers have invaluable skills to contribute.
Examples of skilled volunteering
- In Vancouver, British Columbia, a hospice volunteer took the many thank-you cards received from grateful families of former patients and compiled them into a creative and heartfelt scrapbook. The scrapbook now resides in the hospice's waiting room where families of current patients — as well as staff and volunteers — can find comfort, and experience connection, with others who understand what they are going through.
- In Portland, Oregon, a new volunteer for an organization that builds affordable housing came in wanting to help with construction and, in the course of his interview, the volunteer resource manager learned that he had experience garnered from a 25+ year career in urban planning. While the volunteer wasn't interested in volunteering around the planning aspects of affordable housing (now in his retirement, he was seeking new projects to try), he was up for providing advice from time to time. In the end, both parties were happy: the organization had access to his expertise on an ad hoc advisory basis and he spent most of his volunteer time on doing hands-on construction on a worksite.
Assessing your skills
As you prepare to look for your ideal volunteer opportunity, take a few minutes to assess your skills.
- What are you good at?
- What comes easy for you?
- What aspects of your professional life might be assets to an organization or community effort?
- What personal or interpersonal talents do you have?
To help you with this exercise, consider going through the following (although by no means complete!) list of potential skills and abilities:
|Community Organizing||Computer Hardware||Cooking/Nutrition||Copywriting/Web Text|
|Crafting||Creative Writing||Dance||Data Analysis/ Statistics|
|Database Design/Mgmt||Docent/Leading Tours||Editing||Electrical|
|Engineering||Event Planning||Financial Planning/ Mgmt||Foreign Languages|
|Fundraising||Grant Writing||Graphic Design||Health/Medical Experience|
|Legal/Law Experience||Legislation/Policy||Library Science||Marketing/Public Relations|
|Masonry||Mediation/Conflict Resolution||Mentoring/Tutoring||Musical Arts|
|Outdoor Activities||Photography||Podcasting||Problem Solving|
|Plumbing||Public Speaking||Research||Sales/Retail Experience|
|Sign Language||Social Media/ Networking||Software Development||Strategic Planning|
|Teaching||Telephone Skills||Theater Arts||Translation|
|Videography||Visual Arts (Drawing, painting, etc.)||Volunteer Management||Web Development|
Once you've got a good working list of your own skills and abilities, think about how you might want to contribute them.
- Are there certain things you're good at but just not interested in doing as a volunteer? For example, you might spend your days developing and managing websites but would rather do something entirely different as a volunteer.
- Conversely, are there certain skills you'd love to develop and are seeking a volunteer position that will help you do just that?
Resources for pro bono volunteering
- When you've got a better sense of how you want to contribute or gain skills as a volunteer, learn how to find or create your ideal volunteer opportunity, keeping in mind the range of ways you can serve as a skilled volunteer: as an advisor, in a hands-on or direct service role, online or in person.
- Check out pro bono resources from the Corporation for National and Community Service.
- Search for opportunities on Smart Volunteer which connects professionals with volunteer opportunities.
- Read a comprehensive report Skills-Based Volunteering: A New Generation of Service (PDF) from the Corporation for National Service, Taproot Foundation, and the Points of Light Institute.