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Leading a movement to bring purpose and creativity to work.

Aaron Hurst, Founder, Taproot Foundation

Bill Draper III
Transcript from his remarks on Taproots 10 th Anniversary.

First, I want to congratulate everyone in the room who had anything to do with the development of Taprootits extraordinary what youve done. Taproot and DRK were born in the same year and we were eager to find someone like TaprootAaron is such an example of sartorial splendor that I thought, we really need to back this guy; he will do a lot of good for us. When we conceived of our foundation, we dreamed of helping to launch a panoply of stars, who like Aaron Hurst, had a dream. We dreamed of filling this sky with stars who together as they fulfilled their vision would brighten up the lives of thousands less fortunate than ourselves. At the end of 10 years, we look back with great pride and satisfaction at the results of the work of the 40+ social entrepreneurs we have supported. They include powerful organizations that are changing the landscape of the world immigrant support systems, help for wounded veterans, healthcareareas where nonprofit social entrepreneurs are needed to fill that gaps that private enterprise or the government have done their best to fill but have left as gaps. Among all of the wonderful organizations that we have enthusiastically supported, I can think of none more effective, more impactful, or more important than the organization we are here tonight to celebrate. Taproot has leveraged the work of many of our social entrepreneurs and many thousands of others. Its encouraged volunteers to come forward from all walks of life. Who knows what impact its encouragement and support has had or will have on individuals they have supported and what positive

changes have occurred in the world because there was a Taproot. We at DRK are always looking for social entrepreneurs who have vision, character, generosity of spirit, persistence in following their dream, and the managerial competence to successfully build an organization to reach that dream. Aaron Hurst after 10 years of hard work is the epitome of that social entrepreneur. But he would be the first to say that he did not do this alone and that it was a team effortand thats what were celebrating tonight. And that has made the pro bono work of thousands of volunteers more effective and more efficient. His vision helped others see how the corporate world and community of nonprofits could help each other in a synergistic way. Taproot has much more work to do to promote this wonderful pro bono activityand everyone in this room can help even more than you already have. Please volunteer your time, services, and your companies support if none of that works, cash is always accepted. On behalf of DRK, congratulations to the entire Taproot team and to its network which now stretches across the globe. 10 years old, and the best is yet to come.

Covert Operations

True happiness involves the full use of ones power and talents. John Gardner
Caroline Barlerin crouched under her desk, speaking softly. If her colleagues overheard her conversation, shed be sunk. Caroline was on the sales team for Landor Associates, perhaps the most venerable branding agency in the world. Walter Landor had by most accounts invented modern branding 60 years earlier, and the agency is still the go-to partner to make a product or brand more compelling (and more profitable). Landor made Old Spice manlier, Citi more global, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese happier, FedEx more innovative, and BP more than just a petroleum company. A brand is the most valuable fixed asset of most organizations. Interbrand, another branding agency, does an annual valuation of the worlds 100 largest brands. It values Coca Cola at $78 billion. Apple$77 billion. IBM$76 billion. Google$70 billion. This is not the value of the company, just the brand. Could Apple command the same prices without the Apple name behind the products? Would Coca-Cola sell as much soda without its 127-yr-old brand behind it? Would you be just as likely to ship a critical package with a no-name brand as with FedEx? A brand is more

than just a name and logo. A brand is a promiseit sets an expectation with the customer. The need for strong and recognizable brands has grown over the last few decades at an increasingly fast pace. We are bombarded by more and more brands every day. More sources of information, more products and services from all around the world. Even the government understands the importance of brand. When the United States Department of Homeland Security was created in 2003, it looked to Landor the company that revitalized the Smirnoff brandto create their identity. And now Caroline Barlerin of Landor was talking brand shop, not to the CEO of some major company, but to the executive director of the Florence Crittenton Center, a social services organization in San Francisco. The Center helps pregnant and parenting teens and young families thrive, and like Coca Cola or IBM, they too felt the pressure of an incredibly loud marketplace. As they competed for attention from donors and the pregnant teens they served, they needed a strong brand and clear, effective messaging to reach the people who could ensure the Centers continued success. Like the Department of Homeland Security, to achieve its mission, the Florence Crittenton Center needed Landor-quality services. The difference? As a small nonprofit organization, the Center had no way to pay the six-to-seven-figure fees of a Landor. Caroline was deeply moved by the work of the Florence Crittenton Center and wanted to help, but she knew that Landor as a firm wouldnt touch this agency, or be very happy to find her spending company time talking to them. So she sat huddled under the desk, trying to figure out which of her many friends at Landor would be up for taking this on off the clock, flipping through

her mental Rolodex of talented Landor designers and strategists to find the ones she needed for some covert pro bono. In the end, the Florence Crittenton Center did get Landor-quality workbut management never knew. The work was done by a small band of professionals who cared about both their craft and their community, people who were compelled to work for more than profit.

Ask for help. If you offer purpose and direction, people will give you the world. (And if they dont, someone else will.)

Donors Choose: The 20% That Makes the Difference

Charles Best was a high school history teacher in the Bronx. Despite his low salary, like his colleagues, he found himself spending a lot of his own money on copy paper and pencils. He would come up with all these ideas for projects that would bring the subject matter to life, but those ideas would never go beyond the teachers lunchroom because he didnt have a place where we could go to get the kind of microfunding that he needed to get his students a particular book or take them on a field trip or get the materials. He had a simple ideaconnect the interest in society to improve our schools with the specific teacher need. He knew Americans were skeptical about just giving to a school bureaucracy, but if they could buy $100 in supplies on a teachers wish list well, that might just work. Charles saw that the rise of the web would make it possible to create a national platform to ensure every teacher had the supplies they needed for their classroom. He envisioned a place where public school teachers could post classroom project requests and donors could choose projects to support and get really rich feedback on their investments: photographs and thank you letters and a cost report showing the impact of their donation. Ten years later, half of all the public schools in America have at least one teacher who has posted a project request on Over $130 million has been donated on the platform to fund classroom projects reaching 6 million predominantly low-income students. This scale is no accident. Charles didnt want to create a nonprofit that couldnt scale to meet his vision. From day one, he partnered with companies and business professionals to build, leveraging relationships with corporate partners to augment financial support with pro bono help, from marketing

to technology to strategy. He developed a corporateoriented board and recruited companies like JPMorgan Chase, American Express, and Yahoo! to be true partners in building and marketing his new site. To this day, Donors Choose relies on the business community for far more than funding. Charles estimates that as much as 20% of this operating budget each year is met with a wide range of critical pro bono services. I didnt learn about Charles work until several years after he got off the ground, but the story he shared when we met immediately affirmed what I learned when I left school, eager to make a difference.

1996: Hitting Walls and Opening Doors

After graduation from the University of Michigan, I moved to Chicago for an entry-level position at the Chicago Foundation for Education, a decade-old nonprofit that made small grants to teachers to help them buy supplies for their classroom. The grants, up to $600, were available on a competitive basis to local teachers with compelling needs to enrich their classroom. The Chicago Foundation for Education had an inspiring idea and it was working. There was just one problem: it wasnt growing, and it could only meet a small fraction of the teacher need. Their few hundred grants per year werent going to achieve their vision of a city of well-resourced teachers, and yet they had no plans to grow. I found it disheartening, more so when I heard the same stories from colleagues at other nonprofits with similar experiences. We were all so inspired by the vision, but the reality in which our organizations operated and expected to operate kept that vision very far away indeed. Walking home from work, I would look up at the skyscrapers in every direction housing many of the worlds leading companies and think: they didnt settle for achieving 2% of their ambition. They had the resources to turn vision into reality. So why didnt our organizations have those resources? It was a fundamental issue of social justice. Why should the greatest IT, the greatest planning, the greatest marketing, be available only to commercial interests? Why should nonprofit organizations, doing the most important work in society, be forced to run on crumbs? It was totally out of whack. Most disturbing was the fact that the leadership of the Chicago Foundation for Education, and most of the nonprofits I encountered, had developed a poverty

mentality. They had accepted a lack of resources as the permanent reality, and stopped fighting. They were caught in a starvation cycle. Like Charles Best at Donors Choose, I decided that I couldnt spend the rest of my career hungry. I swore I would never again work for an organization that was resigned to operate below their potential. To change this reality and make professional resources available to more nonprofits, I needed to know more about how business works, and how big companies achieved their visions. At 22, however, I didnt know a single business professional. My parents didnt have a single friend in corporate America. It was a 100% foreign universe to me. It was time to break family tradition and venture into foreign territory. I considered two paths forward business school, or business itself. Given my academic history and school debt, the choice was easy. I went to Silicon Valley for a 5-year apprenticeship in product management.

2001: Service Alliance Gains an Ally

Several months after Caroline finished her covert pro bono project, she found herself having an epically bad day. She was frustrated with her manager. A client was giving her a hard time. She had been doing this for five years. There had to be something better out there. So she went window-shopping on Craigslist. A start-up called Service Alliance was looking for a marketing director to help launch its effort to connect business professionals to nonprofits to meet their marketing needsfor free. She had never heard of Service Alliance, but a few days later, we were having lunch. When I met Caroline in May of 2001, I couldnt offer any money or stock options. We didnt have a dollar in the bank; we werent even a legal organization. What I offered was the chance to help make history by ensuring all nonprofits would have access to the marketing services they needed. Id worked 5 years in product management to learn how good businesses got to great, how they used their resources, what skills might be available for nonprofitsnow Service Alliance was the first step to Taproot. I asked Caroline if she could leverage her network to help us develop a world-class brand and website in time for launch in a few months. Much later Caroline told me how crazy she thought my timeline was, and my ambition, but she also found herself compelled. It was a unique opportunity, and just the kind of challenge she wasnt getting from her day job. So over the next few months, Caroline brought together her covert Landor team and a few of her other all-star contacts to help me create a world-class brand and website in time for our December 11th launch. Caroline was one of several amazing professionals who responded to my ads on Craigslist and got the

organization off the ground. In fact, most of the launch team were not part of my existing network, but new friends made through Craigslist who were compelled by my vision and the need to do something historic and meaningful. Some of the most talented and passionate professionals I had ever had the honor to meet donated hundreds of hours of their time. None of them were paid a penny. Over the next dozen years, people continued to stand up and support our mission. The most talented and passionate professionals are always looking for a way to stretch and make an impact. This good fortune isnt isolated to Taproot. From Donors Choose to Year Up, many of the top nonprofits in this country can trace back much of their success to pro bono services from amazing professionals. Nor is it isolated to the nonprofit sector: conversations with the entrepreneurs behind many visionary commercial start-ups reveal that much of their early success is tied to professionals who wanted to be part of something exciting and compelling, even without pay or the promise of future employment.

Design Matters

A world-class brand is worth the investment. The way your office, website and materials look profoundly impacts peoples confidence in your work.
My grandfather, the son of a Jewish tanner in Salt Lake City, worked his entire career as a public servant for both nonprofits and the government. In these roles he worked with some of the wealthiest and powerful people in the world. He had the ear of presidents, CEOs, and Rockefellers, and he strove to look the part. He wore suits hand-tailored in London, ate in the most stylish restaurants in New York, and stayed at the best hotels in every city he visited. As a high school student, I questioned how a public servant could justify wasting money on these frills. But for him, these expenditures were the furthest thing from frills. They were the ticket to engaging with the rich and elite. He had to act like them so they would invite him to their dinner tables.

This was the same thinking that I used in launching the Taproot Foundation. When we launched, many people assumed that I had made millions in technology and invested them in this new venture. The organization looked like a million bucks. Technology hadnt made me rich, but like my grandfather, those dotcoms had taught me about the incredible importance of brand and design. If there was one thing that all dotcoms did exceptionally well, it was projecting their aspirations, not just their current balance sheet. The Taproot Foundation needed the same aspirational look and feel to attract the resources, talent, and buzz to get off the ground, even if we couldnt do it with $5.50. We aspired to be a world-class brandthe kind of brand our Landor team would put on their resumes with pride. We had to communicate our bold vision and professional culture, create a brand that would give nonprofits and professionals alike the confidence to share with us their most precious resource, their time. We did it. When we launched at the gorgeous Hang Art Gallery in San Francisco with a crowd of over 100 professionals, we were immediately seen as a player. We werent even a legal entity yet, but thanks to the amazing work by Caroline and her team (Amy Sherman, Alton Wright, and Maria McGlaughlin), we had a world-class brand to fit the audacious goals of this new organization.

Dressed for Success

In the audience at the launch was the development director of Community Awareness and Treatment Center (CATS), Terri Sideakis. She was in the class of first nonprofit professionals to submit a request for a Service Grant. She asked for the Taproot Foundation to assemble a team to help create a new brochure for their organization. CATS had been a key part of the social services infrastructure in San Francisco for years. They had become best known for their CATS vans that helped transport the homeless and in need to shelter and treatment centers. CATS faced many challenges, but one of the most pressing was overcoming the lack of confidence the community had in their services. Despite the high quality of their work, the perception on the street was not remotely aligned with reality, and many of the citizens of San Francisco stayed on the street rather than take advantage of CATSs services. Terri wanted something she could hand out to those in need that would give then the confidence to use their services. We assembled a team of all-stars including one of the Gaps best photographers and one of the best copywriters we knew to create a powerful brochure. A few months later, I got to see the brochure. It was deep blue. The copy was sharp and powerful, and the photographs were unlike anything I had ever seen created by a nonprofit. Striking. Another few months passed before we heard back from CATS. They had started distributing the brochures at homeless encampments around the city. One day, an older homeless man arrived at one of the their treatments centers with the brochure in his hand. He had been homeless for a long time and was scared of shelters. While he was still skeptical, the brochure had given him the confidence to try.

At the end of the day, all the team had produced was a simple piece of paper, but its impact was profound. CATS also used the brochure to educate potential donors about their work. In the past, Terri told me, when she met with donors, she felt like she was wearing jeans to the meeting. With the new brochure in hand, she felt like she was wearing an Armani suit.

2002: Costco for Nonprofits

Costco doesnt offer nearly as many choices as a typical grocery store. They dont have 25 different types of toothpaste. They are in less-convenient locations that always require driving. They dont have the best or niche products for sale (no Toms of Maine toothpaste or artisanal cheeses) and what they do offer is typically in much large quantity than you need (you have to buy three tubes of toothpaste at a time). Why are they so successful? Because they set the right expectations. When you go to Costco you know that you are going to get goodenough products at a much lower cost than at other stores. You give up choice for consistent minimum qualitya situation that can actually be comforting in a world with too many choices. As I met with nonprofits to understand their needs for business resources, I found they could also often do with good enough, if the cost were right. The appetite for marketing, technology, and other services was incredibly high. Every nonprofit reported a near endless need for resources to build the infrastructure of their organization. Yet the resources to pay for these services didnt exist. There was next to no funding for organizations to invest in their own organizationonly in the community. These organizations were incredibly resourceful and had in many cases worked around the lack of budget, producing their own logos or brochures with tape and bubble gum. But the results were clearly amateur. Their programs were amazing and professional, but they didnt have the marketing materials to match and their stakeholders noticed. To an outsider, the quality of their materials represented the quality of their programs. These organizations just wanted and deserved something professional. They needed something that could match the quality

of their programs in the community. This was an easy problem to solve for a single nonprofit. My friends and I could get this done for them, but what about the million other nonprofits in the country? How do we create a solution that could scale to that kind of demand? The key that unlocked the solution emerged from speaking with nonprofit leaders. As I asked them about their needs, they all shared roughly the same list. A few were looking for the equivalent of Toms toothpaste, but most just wanted something good enough. For example, nearly all needed a basic website with roughly the same number of pages and basic features. The sector needed a Costco for infrastructure services. We needed a model that could provide the right basic set of professional quality services to large numbers of nonprofits at 10% of the typical cost. Costco for nonprofits was our Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG).

2002: Designing for Scale

It takes the same effort to hunt fox as elephants.

By going with the Costco model, we could design standardized solutions for 80% of nonprofitsturning overwhelming demand into something reasonable. The next set of insights moved us from demand to supply. Based on my experience over the previous five years, the list of standard needs of nonprofits was composed of some basic solutions that companies had been developing for years. Corporate America held a large pool of talent with experience building these solutions as well as pretty well established processes for doing the work. There was no way to use paid staff to deliver these solutions. Even if we had the money, we couldnt hire the volume needed to meet the demand. To achieve scale and the desired 10% cost, we had to use voluntary labor. 8 million business professionals in the United States have the skills nonprofits need these professionals would become our team. In recruiting them, however, wed find professionals who had never worked for an external client, much less a nonprofit. We couldnt just match them with a nonprofit and consider our work done. To reliably produce professional quality work from this broad workforce, we would need a very strong and tight process to manage the services. The key to delivering quality was the process management.

To meet our goals, we would apply a manufacturing process to service delivery. Ford Motor Company meets Deloitte: an assembly line process that leaves little room for error. Each step of the way would need to be defined and the roles clear. If you were a marketing manager on the fifth week of a brochure project, you would have clear direction on what needed to get done and how you need to work with your other team members. Staff had to know what every volunteer was supposed to be doing every week so they could course correct quickly and easily diagnose problems. The assembly line was the only way to could control quality and also keep the management and oversight costs down. The constraint of developing a model that could generate services with a cost of 10% of their value brought us back to one of the pillars of Costcos strategy: selling in bulk. At most grocery stores the vast majority of items for sale are under $10, but at Costco youll rarely find something at that price. Small transactions are expensive. The more someone buys the lower the cost to the company and therefore the lower the price they can offer to the customer. Similarly, we couldnt provide $1,000 in services to nonprofits at a cost of $100. There are fixed costs associated with providing the very first hour of consulting services. For example, we needed to screen nonprofits and consultants, set up a team, and make the matchfor every project, large or small. This is expensive. Instead, we would provide large bundles of services to nonprofits. These projects would be team-based, multi-month projects that could generate north of $25,000 in value.


This was the fundamental strategy that launched Taproot: we would offer large standardized projects that addressed common challenges for nonprofits. The projects would be delivered by teams of volunteer business professionals and tightly managed using standardized processes and established best practices. It was the best way to provide quality at scale.


The Queen of Pro Bono (The Rest of Pro Bono?)

The Pro Bono Institute (PBI) was founded in 1996 as a program of Georgetown University, a resource and advocate for the growing tradition of pro bono service in the legal profession. Pro bono service had been a part of the profession for decades, but it was gaining steam and there was a desire by some leading advocates support it as a field with the associated investments in research and knowledge sharing. PBI was founded by Esther Lardent, who spent the first four years of her life in displaced persons camps in Poland searching for family members who survived the Holocaust. From an early age Esther was an advocate for social justice; after graduating for the University of Chicago law school three years before I was born, she became a public interest lawyer. We take for granted the role of pro bono in the legal profession today. It is rare to find a nonprofit that cant get access to pro bono legal services and movies and TV shows are littered with references to pro bono legal counsel. When Esther started PBI, this wasnt the case. Prior to 1996, Esther had seen a strong line between those who practiced commercial law and public interest law. They were two different worlds. Esther had the vision to see that this was problematic for the profession and for our society. With PBI, she had a goal. She would break down the walls and make pro bono service a core part of the legal community across the nations thousands of law firms. She would ensure that society had access to the counsel it needed to ensure their basic rights and needs regardless of their ability to pay. When she started PBI, she began tracking the hours the firms were doing pro bono. In 1996 they totaled 1.4 million. By 2007 the number had grown to 4.3 million.

Her strategy was brilliant and multi-faceted. She created a law firm challenge to have firms publically embrace a pro bono standard and then followed up with a similar challenge for in house counsel. She lobbied American Lawyer magazine to do an annual ranking of the firms by the volume of their pro bono service as well as the hours per attorney, creating a competing and confirming market dynamic that drove increased support within firms for pro bono. They needed it to attract the next generation of lawyers. There was also a concerted effort to make sure pro bono service was part of the process of minting new lawyers. In 1987, Tulane Law School became the first American law school to institute a comprehensive pro bono program. By 1991, 13 more law schools had launched pro bono programs; of these, six made pro bono work a graduation requirement. Five years later, the American Bar Association mandated that accredited law schools should aspire to instill a pro bono ethic, a guideline that was later codified in a 2005 standard stipulating that accredited institutions shall offer substantial opportunities for student participation in pro bono activities. By 2007, out of a total of 200 accredited law schools nationwide, 35 now have mandatory pro bono graduation requirements; 110 have formal voluntary programs; and 24 have independent in-house or collaborative group projects. According to a 2001 survey conducted by the Association of American Law Schools, 95 percent of law school deans agreed that it is an important goal of law schools to instill in students a sense of obligation to perform pro bono work during their later careers. Esther also helped develop a profession of pro bono coordinators at firms and created a conference to help

support them and their firm leadership to support best practices. It set a foundation for the profession that ensured a level of sustainability. While many other institutions had played a critical role in leading and executing the movement, Esther earned the nick name the queen of pro bono for she had truly been the voice and advocate for sweeping change. When I met Esther and learned both her personal story and the story of the pro bono ethic the legal profession, I had found my role model. She put a name and strategy to the change that I envisioned in society. Taproots goal for 2020 is to accomplish for design, management consulting, marketing, human resources and technology what Esther and her colleagues did for law. We will build the pro bono ethic into these professions and create the infrastructure to ensure a scalable and sustainable movement.


2002: Choosing the Right Category

Despite the high quality of our services, many of the nonprofits we approached didnt trust volunteers to do mission-critical work. They had been burned too many times by well-intentioned volunteers. You get what you pay for, they shared over and over again. They were encouraged by the structure we proposed to manage the volunteers, but there was a lot of resistance. One nonprofit shared that if they got another volunteer they would go out of business. Another described volunteers as the gift that keeps on taking. We had a major marketing problem. Nonprofits didnt trust our solution. It was hard to blame them, given their stories of time wasted and promises broken despite the best of intentions. How could we earn the trust of nonprofits and broadcast reliability and stability? We would position ourselves as a charitable foundationnot a peer of nonprofits, but a grantmaking organization. Foundations are well-resourced and stable organizations with tremendous power in the nonprofit sector. They control the purse strings. This simple idea turned out to be one of the most important. It became core to our whole brand platform and the design of our programs. We were a foundation, but rather than giving grants we would make grants of servicesService Grants. Unlike consulting firms who sell services to clients or volunteer organizations who respond to in bound nonprofit requests, we would have a competitive grant-making process to award services. These nonprofits would be grantees, not partners or clients. This made working with us an achievement and something worth promoting. It changed the whole dynamic of the relationship. Nonprofits were accustomed to working with foundations and understood the process. It was

familiar and comfortable. The work of applying for a Service Grant also ensured the nonprofit was committed to the project and would put the necessary resources against it on their end. They had to really want it to spend the time completing an application and doing an interview with our team. To further the positioning as a foundation, we attached a dollar value to each type of Service Grant we provided to clearly show the value to nonprofits. For example, we might assign a value of $50,000 to a Service Grant to design and build a new website. This greatly increased the perceived value. This also enabled our business professionals to be philanthropists. They were each donating $8,000 in services. It was more than being a volunteer. They were now a major donor and a philanthropist. Over time this positioning helped us in ways we didnt anticipate. We got meetings with foundations easily as they thought of us as a peer and less as a nonprofit. It also attracted talent to work on the team and our board who aspired to work in philanthropy. There was something aspirational about it that was a magnet for talent.


2002: The Final Ingredient

The model that emerged was structured like Costco, had the professional quality of a Deloitte, was delivered on an assembly line like Ford Motor Company, and was positioned as a charitable foundation. There was one final ingredient to pull it all together: technology. This time the inspiration was, the leader in ecommerce, at a killer scale. On the products were merchandized online. You could learn all about a family of products and even read consumer reviews before you made your purchase. The first taprootfoundation. org launched with a catalog of ten services for nonprofitsService Grants merchandized just as books or shoes might be. Each Service Grant had a page on the site. It had an economic value assigned to it. There was a description of the service and key benefits, as well as the ideal nonprofit grantee for the service. Also on the page was the scope of work, deliverables, project plan, and list of business professional roles that would be assigned. The difference here was that instead of pressing the buy now button, we had an apply now button. At this point, fewer than 10% of foundations were set up to take online applications, but by making the experience like it was familiar and comfortable for nonprofit leaders. We took another important lesson from ecommerce: a guarantee. In the late 1990s many consumers were still uncomfortable buying online. What if they didnt like what arrived in the mail? The solution for the smart ecommerce sites was simple. They guaranteed your satisfaction with the product. If you didnt like it you could return it for a refund or replacement. Most even agreed to pay for the shipping to send it back. We would guarantee our Service Grants. We couldnt promise they would be done on time but we would

guarantee they would be completed and that you would be satisfied or we would keep trying until you were. If a nonprofit got a Service Grant, they have the commitment of their volunteer team, but also the commitment of Taproot. Even if their team went AWOL or didnt produce good work, we would fix it. They could apply knowing that we respected their time and took responsibility for our work.


Creating A New Path

In starting Taproot, I studied corporate volunteer programs to learn what worked and didnt. Frustrating didnt begin to describe what I found. Most corporate volunteer programs were fueling sectorism, instead of killing it. Business professionals told me over and over again that nonprofits need to act more like companies. They said they wanted nonprofits to be data driven and analytical. But as I met with these volunteer managers and heard story after story from nonprofits, it became clear that corporate philanthropy and volunteerism were the entities that needed to act more like a business. So many corporate volunteer programs were field trips to see poor people and create photo opportunities. They were not only not helping nonprofits, they were costing nonprofits time and money. Some of the companies were honest enough about this and paid the nonprofits for the ability to keep 200 of their employees busy on a Saturday. The bulk, however, felt nonprofits should be thrilled to have a busload of corporate employees show up so the nonprofit could entertain them and tell them they made an impact. I heard one nonprofit in DC created a room at their facility for corporate volunteers to paint. When a company called and asked to send 30 people over the next day, the nonprofit would share that they had a room that really needed to be painted blue. A month later another company would call and they nonprofit would explain that the room needs to be green. It may be an urban legend, but given the stories I heard, it is likely close to true. These experiences exacerbated the distrust between the sectors. Business professionals walked away from these bogus service opportunities feeling like they wasted their time and blamed the nonprofits

for being inefficient and not appreciating them. The nonprofits got great evidence to support their belief that companies are arrogant and clueless about reality on the ground. As cost centers, volunteer programs are always fighting to keep their budgets at companies. There was no motivation to take a critical look at their impact. No research was being done about the effectiveness and I couldnt find a company that wanted that research done. They just wanted to data to support more funding. These programs had to be accountable for the damage that many of them were creating in the community. It was ruining the reputation of volunteerism and was building even more disrespect between the sectors. We would build our Service Grant program to show that there is a better path possible built on respect and mutual appreciation. We would intentionally create space for professionals from both sectors to get to know and admire each other for who they are and what they share.


2002: Our First $10,000

I have no idea how I got the meeting with Dick Matgen at the Peninsula Community Foundation (later renamed the Silicon Valley Community Foundation) but I vividly remember the room and can recall the speed at which my heart was racing. It was my first foundation meeting. Dick wore many hats at the foundation, including their investments in helping to build stronger and more sustainable nonprofits. Over the next ten years I would meet dozens, if not hundreds, of foundation program officers. Of all of them, Dick has the strongest empathy for nonprofit leaders. He was deeply concerned about their organizations and felt a personal sense of responsibility to help. We had done a few projects for nonprofits at this point and started many more. Dick had the challenge so many foundation executives face. He simply didnt have enough resources to help all the nonprofit he wanted and needed to support. He was impressed with what he saw from this young and passionate professional but he also was very aware of how early we were in our process. He couldnt support Taproot. We didnt have enough of the key pieces in places to justify the investment. At my urging, he shared the list of changes we needed to make. The list had roughly 10 items from formalizing some key board practices to showing greater individual donor support. The list was a gift. My focus when I return to my bedroom office became his list of ten items. With each I researched the best practices and then implemented. Two weeks later I emailed Dick back. We had done everything on his list. Could we meet again? That time I left his office with a request for a proposal that

eventual led to our first granta modest but historic $10,000. Dick eventually joined our board and become its soul and a good friend and mentor. He knew from day one that when he gave me advice I would listen and act. Even for busy people, it is always worth giving time to people who make good use of it.

When someone gives you good advice, take itthen give it back. Let them know you made the changes and how it worked.


2002: Bill Draper III

Several years after my grandfather died, my grandmother moved from their New York City 11th floor apartment overlooking the United Nations to a retirement home in Palo Alto overlooking Stanford. She had packed several boxes of photos and as we were unpacking them I came upon a signed photo that caught my attention. It was a photo of Bill Draper that he had signed with a short note. To Joe Slater, whose loyalty and devotion has made every task easier. Was this the Bill Draper? The eyebrows certainly looked familiar. It turned out that this Bill Draper had been my grandfathers mentor in Germany after the war as part of the Draper Commission. He was the father of Bill Draper III, one of the pioneer venture capitalists in Silicon Valley. He was doing deals in the valley when much of the valley was still farm land. During the dotcom era, Bill teamed up with Robin Richards, a much younger but very successful investor, to create Draper Richards International. They made their share of Silicon Valley investments, but their big win came from being the first US venture firm to invest in India. The bet paid off- big time. They returned 16 times the investment in only six years. They had made a ton of money for their partners and for themselves. While much of the gains were funneled into personal interests and into new commercial investments, Bill and Robin decided they also wanted to do something for others who perhaps didnt have the opportunities they had in their lives. The only thing they knew, however, was venture capital. The idea struck them that a startup nonprofit could do a lot of good if the right person leads it. They could put their exceptional ability to identify

and coach entrepreneurs to help start remarkable nonprofits. A year after I launched Taproot, Bill and Robin launched the Draper Richards Foundation and hired a family friend of Bills, Jenny Stein, to run it. They were at the very beginning of a new field of venture philanthropy and the first major US fund for early stage start-up nonprofits. Bill Draper knew what it took to create a profitable enterprise. The best organizations learn efficiency and effectiveness. They learn that sales, or fundraising, is very important and that marketing is critical to supporting it. They need strong financial management, human resources, and technology. They need exceptional leadership and to build equally terrific teams. In Bills experience, there was little difference between the needs of a strong company and a strong nonprofit. The motivations were different, but the ingredients remained the same. His investments in nonprofits would share the traits of his best commercial investments. Shortly after funding their first two ventures, Upwardly Global and Room to Read, Mike Zimmerman, a friend of Robins, introduced me to the Draper Richards Foundation. Bill and Jenny understood the concept right away. Nonprofits needed access to functional talent and the economics of the sector made it nearly impossible. They saw that it was elegant and breakthrough. It was the disruptive innovation needed to bring business talent to the social sector. The process to actually go from the first meeting to funding took over six months. I later joked that it is easier to survive a senate confirmation than to get funding for their foundation. They called over a dozen leaders in the field, grilled me multiple times, visited me at my home, talked with our board members and

had me revise our business plan until it was ready. The Taproot board ended up being the variable that push the deal over the top. Bill fell in love with Caroline Barlerin, who he still gushes about. She was wonderful. Jenny was equally impressed with her and other members of the board like Dick Matgen. That I had built a strong board so early demonstrated to them that I could attract talent and was in this to win it. Their support would enable us to get our first office and for me to stop running Taproot off my credit card. $100,000 a year for three years plus the boost of knowing the godfather of Silicon Valley was behind us. The Draper Richards Foundation would go on to fund many of the most successful nonprofits of the following ten years, from Taproot to Kiva to World Vision to Room to Read. Bill and Robin kept their golden touch.


Captain Kirk had Dr. Spock. I had Dr. James, aka James Shepard, Jr.

2003: Dr. James

In his senior year at Georgetown, James worked fulltime at the Princeton Review and stayed there for the two years following college, running their midAtlantic franchise. He grew it from seven staff to over 100 and expanded it to 15 locations. The Princeton Review used graduate and college students as teachers to help aspiring students prepare for standardized tests that would determine their academic futures. Working with part-time teachers with little-to-no teaching experience and high turnover requires the Princeton Review to provide substantial scaffolding to ensure a high-quality product. James had to learn how to bring teachers on board quickly, get them up to speed, and monitor their progress. This required a rigorous process and tight management. James then tried his hand at management consulting, got an MBA, and in the late 1990s, joined several dotcoms in Silicon Valley. When I met him through my girlfriend at the time, Aimee Randolph, he was the CMO of Headlight. com, and Aimees boss. We reconnected in 2003 shortly after Taproot received funding from the Draper Richards Foundation. James and I were both part of a Jewish leadership program and he shared that he was interested in moving into the nonprofit sector and working in education. We had many long talks about the need for Taproot services within education nonprofits and he eventually agreed to volunteer to do a study on the topic.

James was the first person I had met who really understood what I was trying to build at a strategic and design level. He put words to my intuition and saw that what we were trying to do was productize professional services. It made complete sense to him, as he had seen it done before, but he knew that it was an unusual approach and that most people didnt understand it. Through his research on education nonprofits he also knew there was a tremendous need. I had found the partner I needed to really make this new organization work. Jamess experience at the Princeton Review, combined with his consulting background and start-up background, made him one in a million. He understood the processes and risks in using part-time and transient labor to deliver professional services. He appreciated the structure and design of consulting firms and had the courage and audacity to work at a start-up. He could operationalize the vision. James took a salary that must have been 25% of his last paycheck and joined the team despite the fact that I didnt know where the money would come from to pay him. I just knew that he was the partner I needed and together we would find a way. We had a blast working together. I would be up all night coming up with a new approach or framework for how to get to the next stage and would share it with him in the morning. He would get it right away and usually point to some business school or McKinsey study that stated the same thing and allowed me to expand on the thinking. We could totally geek out on strategy and the immediately put it into action.



One key to operationalizing the Service Grant concept, as in productizing any professional services project, was to design it to fit into a single standard process. That process needed to work regardless of the project type. You had to be able to use the same process to design a website as to do a branding project. Despite the different nomenclature from firm to firm and industry to industry, all projects have the same process DNA. They kick off, conduct discovery, deliver findings and recommendations, execute, iterate, and then transition to the client to take over. We found a great ally in the design of the program in the Project Management Institute. PMI is an association of thousands of licensed project managers who had developed common best practices for managing complex projects. They understood the art and science of project management and were intrigued by the added complexity of managing a team of volunteers. Another key was in the design of the materials and infrastructure to support the process. Without clear guidelines on the standard process, best-practice documents for each project type, and example project plans and deliverables from similar projects, a team could quickly get lost, no matter how carefully wed trained them. James first task, then, was to determine the right documentation and process management to really support our Service Grants. He set up a war room and went to work, quickly developing a prototype of a 70+ page guide that we could customize for each project type. Each blueprint, as we called them, included the best practices for that project type, garnered from the leaders in the field (such as Landor for branding), as well as the tips and tricks from PMI. The documents anticipated the 100 reasons a project

would go south and headed them off at the pass through proactive communication and processes. It was not only what many would call the best volunteer management resource ever created, it was a profound innovation in process design. We found that it was not only highly effective in our program but beyondour business professionals were taking our documents back to their corporate offices and using them to manage their projects for their company. James had created a work of art, something a coworker called drop-dead gorgeous. The blueprints were our purple cow, in Seth Godin speak. They became our secret sauce.


Overcoming Sector Barriers

Sometime in our first few years I met with a program officer who was highly skeptical about the viability of the Service Grant program. She told the story of how one pro bono program had sent a first year MBA student into a school district to help develop a new organization design for the district. It was a huge failure. The student was way out of her depth and she pissed off just about everyone at the district office. For many people in the nonprofit sector, this was their experience with business professionals who donated them time to help fix nonprofits. Rather than strengthen nonprofits and build bridges between the sectors, pro bono work was doing the opposite. The suggestion many made was that we train our business consultants on the nonprofit sector before they do a project. But the potential models and curriculum always fell short. The nonprofit sector is way too diverse to create a standard training, and until a volunteer was on site with the client, they werent going to retain the information anyway. Our solution was simple: dont have professionals doing projects they couldnt be hired to do, and make sure the projects we offered required little understanding of the nonprofit sector. That MBA should never have been asked to redesign a school district, as she didnt have the skills or the knowledge of the field. Another problem was the arrogance dynamic in projectslike that MBA, many consultants brought in to help a nonprofit offered the wrong solutions, at the wrong times, and seemed tone-deaf to the nonprofits real needs and resources. This problem turned out to not be a sector issue at all, but a consulting issue. Business professionals doing volunteer work for nonprofits really want to help and they want to hear that they are helping, from the

very first meeting. So they were quick to give advice in their first meeting, even though they had little-tono knowledge or appreciation of the organization and setting. Their insecurity and well intentions were perceived as arrogant. This is a common challenge in consulting, especially with rookie consultants. The solution wasnt better training, but a better process to give the business professionals the permission to learn before they advise. As Steven Covey famously said, our teams needed to seek to understand and then to be understood. We made this understanding a core part of the design of the blueprints. The team engaged in a deep discovery process at the start of the project, then shared their findings so the nonprofit could confirm that the team understood the situation. Only then would they move into a phase of making recommendations and giving advice. It became rare to have one of our grantees complain about the lack of sector knowledge or arrogance in one of our teams. They felt respected by having the teams spend so much time listening. It created authentic and trusted relationships and was critical to the business professionals giving helpful and informed advice.


2003: Defining Assumptions

Parallel to developing our blueprints, Dr. James took on writing our first true strategic plan. His draft was 61 pages, which I cut down to 6, but in it was something very powerful that continues to core to how I think about new programs and ventures. James had worked with John Doer and some of the best VCs in the valley during his tenure in dotcoms and had an appreciation for which questions needed to be explored and answered at each stage in the development of a start-up. We were going from an R&D stage to taking the program to market and there were certain key assumptions, or risks, that we needed to clearly articulate as a team. Success in this stage was about being deliberate about testing our key assumptions and seeing if we could move forward to start to scale the concept. We called out the specific assumptions and the status of validating them in that initial strategic plan. If we found that any of the assumptions were wrong we would need to adjust course or even pack our bags. It created a discipline around our work and where we put our energy.


Here are the assumptions as they appeared in our 2004 plan Assumption R&D Description We can professional quality services be delivered using volunteers for team staff & management. We can create a system for delivering quality services at our target cost point. There is nonprofit demand for the services we offer. There is a supply of appropriate volunteers. We can deliver small numbers of professional-quality projects in one city. Funding available. We can deliver large numbers of similar professionalquality projects in one city. Status in 2004 Proven Yes


Proven Yes


Proven Yes, mostly

Volunteer Supply Small-batch manufacturing Funding Single-City, Single Functional-Area Scaled Manufacturing Sustainable Revenue

Proven Yes, mostly Proven Yes

Proven Yes, mostly Current Focus of Effort

We can build a sustainable revenue generating process. We can manage large numbers of different professional-quality projects nationally.

Current Focus of Effort

Multi-City, Multiple Functional-Area Scaled Manufacturing Competition


We can build sustainable advantage and compete successfully against competitors.


Key Take Away: At every stage in the development of an organization, name your assumptions and regular check to make sure you are on track.

2003: Corporate Sirens

Tie yourself to the mission mast to steer clear of distractions.

Shortly before we closed the funding from the Draper Richards Foundation, we were in talks with CNET. They were one of the hottest companies in the Bay Area at the time and had a beautiful new building South of Market. As a media company, they had a ton of the right talent for our projects. They could help us quickly staff our projects and help more nonprofits faster. They offered us office space in their building if we would focus our efforts on their employee population. Working out of my home office at the time, my immediate reaction washell yes. But after sleeping on it, challenges started to emerge. We didnt have a funding model yet but CNET was only offering space (in a recession with plenty of empty buildings in town), and their needs would make it hard to attract additional funding. They would be legitimizing but their degree of ownership would make it hard for me to raise the funds to pay myself and create a sustainable organization. The board wrestled with the decision but we decided to pass. It was hard to do given that we didnt have any other options but it wasnt the right partnership. Then, in the year after the Draper funding, we had

another exciting opportunity. Cisco was trying to make the jump from traditional volunteering to leverage the skills and talents of their employees to help the community. We met with them and they immediately saw the potential. The problem was that they saw too much potential. After several conversations, they drafted a document outlining their needs. The model had to be able to scale to hundreds of projects within 12 monthsand they needed to be global. Cisco has offices all around the world and the solution had to work just as well in Ireland and India as San Francisco. They gave us a long lecture about how this is how companies work. They need scale, they need a global footprint, it has to be supported with enterprise quality technology and it has to happen quickly. They felt they could do it on their own but it would be easier if we could help them. They also said that we should be willing to do it for next to free as working with Cisco would open so many doors to future revenue. It was an organization maker. There was no way in hell we could do it but we didnt run right away. They had found my Achilles heel. They had questioned our ability to be world class and play with a company. They had framed it as a test of our value and potential. We returned to our strategic plan and the assumptions we were trying to prove. There was no assumption about being global. There was no assumption about providing enterprise software to companies or even an assumption about companies for that matter. Working with Cisco would take us off course. We walked. 12 months later they didnt have the platform they described mandated by their executive team. They tried and rolled out various programs but none of them achieved what they had asked us to do in 12 months.


The Second City

Many nonprofits have ambitions or visions to become national and go beyond just serving their place of origin. It is their goal but they first want to make sure they have their recipe perfected. There is a lot of merit to this thinking, but as one mentor pointed out, it has three flaws when applied in the nonprofit sector. The longer you operate in a single location, the more connected your staff and board become to your identity as a local provider. Rather than seeing success as becoming national, you begin to worry that scaling will jeopardize your local efforts. Your culture or DNA becomes local and your relationships become local. The idea of perfecting your model sounds smart when you think about manufacturing but with programs that are human-based it is an illusion. Programs are never perfected and there are always two more things you want to nail down. It can become an infinite loop. Finally, there is defacto no serious start-up funding for nonprofits. At $100,000 a year, Draper Richards offered the largest grant available at the time for startup nonprofits. This could get you off the ground and enable some piloting but to build infrastructure you needed more money. With our model, that was designed around philanthropy, the growth curve in a given city could only accelerate at a certain trajectory. This was a healthy growth curve but didnt support any investments in infrastructure. The only way to accelerate this curve was to start opening more offices so that the infrastructure costs could be allocated across multiple offices.

If you want to be national or global, make the commitment early and build it into your DNA so you dont set deep roots in only one place.


2004: New York

New York City had the greatest potential to be our second city. It had way more companies, foundations, business professionals and nonprofits. We knew that all the key ingredients were there and also that if someone else entered that market before us it would both be hard to get in and also hard to be the national leader if we were out of the biggest market. But that wasnt the main reason we opened New York City second. We could have stayed in the same state and opened Los Angeles or gone back to the city where I first worked in the sector, Chicago. We opened New York City second because of my grandmother. My grandfather had recently died and I wanted to spend time with her and she had a couch I could sleep on. Spending time with my grandmother was one of the best parts and fondest memories of our early days in New York. Every night I would come home and walk her through all the meetings from the day. She would reflect on my grandfathers parallel experience scaling the Aspen Institute and her experience as his right hand. The last conversation I had with her before she died was about our time together in New York. It was the highlight of our relationship. Meeting with foundations, corporations and nonprofits in New York was so refreshing. We had proven the model in the Bay Area and they didnt have the same skepticism as we faced pitching the program before there was evidence of success. Unlike the Bay Area, there also wasnt the sense of innovation fatigue. Funders in the Bay Area get pitched new ideas every week and the headlines in the paper are always about technology and innovation. In New York City the foundation community was excited about our entrance and saw the real value in what we had created.

Our biggest champion was Matt Klein, the head of the Blue Ridge Foundation. We met in his office in Brooklyn and within 30 minutes he gave me a verbal offer of funding and incubator space. He was the first entrepreneurial funder I had ever met. Other funders understand entrepreneurs, but Matt was one and acted like one. He didnt need PPTs or budgets. He just had the instinct. Matt introduced us around town and within nine months we had funding lined up from many of the top foundations in the city from the United Way to Booth Ferris. They were all modest grants but they were all we needed to be able to hire someone to lead the office and a desk for them to sit at.

Sometimes grandmas are more important than PPT in making strategic decisions.


Sell the End, not the Means

If you are introducing a new category, dont expect customers to come to you; find out where they are and go to them.
How do you sell a product to someone who isnt looking for it? Harder yet, how do you do it in a way that costs next to nothing an in large volume? Few business professionals today are looking to engage in pro bono services. Far fewer were seeking these types of opportunities back in 2003. While they wanted to have more impact and purpose in their careers, and be more connected to the community, they didnt know pro bono was the solution. When we spoke to potential candidates for the program, most had a bad association with the very concept of volunteering. They pictured old ladies in Keds planting flowers. Those that had volunteered in the past found it an utter waste of time and talent. They were not looking to volunteer, so trying to recruit people through traditional volunteer channels like volunteer centers and websites like was bearing very little fruit.

Another challenge was that we needed very specific roles. Most of the volunteer-oriented sites were too heterogeneous and could not reliably create pipelines for roles like graphic designers and web developers. Again, we decide to approach it from a different angle. What was the profile of the person we wanted to attract? They were professionals in a given field. They werent satisfied with the current state of their job or career and were looking for something else. Where did graphic designers or web developers going when they were looking for change in their career? They went looking for a new joband by 2003 most of them were looking on one or more of about a dozen job websites from Craigslist to CareerBuilder to Dice. com to These sites could target specific professionals in certain geographies who all met our target profile. Most importantly, they reached thousands of professionals per day and could generate real volume. That was the insight, but getting these sites to help us was another story. There was no way we could pay the hundreds of dollars they asked to advertise a role and they were concerned about having unpaid jobs listed as it might frustrate job seekers. One by one I made the rounds and gave each site my pitch. Our nation was in trouble and the nonprofit sector was our best bet, but nonprofits needed the talent to help them rise to the challenge. Taproot was working to make this happen but they (insert job board) were the only way we could do it. They had the attention of the business professionals and had to decide if they would use that power for good. If they didnt do it we would fail, the nonprofits would fail, and our society would be in deeper water. I asked them to let us post for volunteer positions on their job

boards and to donate the inventory, tens of thousands of dollars worth per year. These sites protested that it would open a flood gate of requests from nonprofits for free listings; they told us it would ruin their job board. But most were able to see this as a unique opportunity. Other nonprofits might want free job postings here or there, but we were the only one who had this strategic ability to partner. We were the only one with a large, ongoing need for something only they could provide, something that would enable their customers to maximize their careers and impact. In just a few years we signed up every major job site and had hundreds of thousands of dollars in donated job board inventory each year to drive business professionals to find purpose. And come they did. Over 61,000 people have applied to do pro bono with Taproot; as of May 2013 we have more than 5,000 active or on hold pro bono consultants.


2004: Lindsay Firestone

Surround yourself with great people and let them find ways to create value and energy. The best ideas rarely come from management
Like me, Lindsay Firestone speaks a mile per minute. Like me, she did her undergraduate studies in sociology and organizational behavior. This focus was a product of her natural interests but also her experience as a summer intern at the Red Cross headquarters in Washington. It was the perfect opportunity to understand how a large nonprofit was able to run a world class program and operate efficiently and effectively. It would be a master class in organization design and leadership. It ended up being just that but not for the reasons she expected. The Red Cross needed help. It had world class programs and yet was also missing the most basic systems and infrastructure support because there was little funding that was allowed by donors to be spent on overhead. Lindsay was shocked. If a nonprofit of this size and stature was hampered by these fundamental obstacles, how could other organizations expect to have it any better. It turned her thinking

upside down. She returned to Yale that fall with a renewed passion to understand how to build a healthy and strong nonprofit organization so that she could one day help ensure our social sector was able to realize its potential. She had been out of Yale for a few years when she approached James about joining our team. To her, Taproot was exactly what the doctor ordered. We were scaling a model to bring talent and services to nonprofits that they couldnt afford. She wanted to be part of it. James met with her while I was on my honeymoon. When I returned he shared that he had found a profoundly passionate young star that he wanted to hire but we didnt have the right role for her. We did have one opening, as a volunteer recruitment associate, but it wasnt quite right. After I met with Lindsay, I gave James my blessing to hire her for the role anyway: dont let this one get away. While it wasnt intentional, over the next few years Lindsay got what many management grooming programs at big companies received, a rotation through all the departments in the organization. She was our young star, and when we needed something done and done well, Lindsay got moved into a role to work on it.


2004: Matt OGrady

Key to opening a second market was to hire someone else to run the Bay Area so I could be on the road and know that our work in the Bay Area could continue to grow with quality. That person was Matt OGrady one of our early culture carriers who thought Taproot was an innovative experiment in engaging people in service in a much more powerful way than had ever been done before. He had worked for decades in the nonprofit sector and was a thought leader in both nonprofit management and volunteerism. Taproot was breaking a lot of the rules and turning conventional wisdom about volunteering on its head. Based on what he was hearing, the early indicators were that it was successful and really powerful. He wasnt looking for a job but when he saw that we were looking for someone to run the Bay Area office, he through his hat into the ring. Where James was an ideal partner to operationalize and develop our programs, Matt OGrady was the one guy in Bay Area that could be our ambassador to the nonprofit establishment. He was one of the old guard and had seen it all and knew all the key players in the nonprofit and philanthropic community. His endorsement and ability to put what we were doing into language that would translate into the field that would control our success. Several years later as part of a 360 review for Matt I interviewed a foundation executive about her experience working with Matt as our Bay Area Executive Director. She was very complimentary but when I asked if she had any challenges working with him she shared that Matt at times was too

excited about Taproot and his enthusiasm could be overwhelming. Matt is an effusive guy to begin with, but Matt become the best possible advocate for our new program. He truly understood why it was revolutionary and was able to get others to share his excitement. For Matt, our first heresy was that we focused first on nonprofits and then on volunteers. Instead of going out and recruiting volunteers and then finding nonprofits that might need them, we had started with the nonprofit demand and then sought to find the volunteers to meet their needs. This runs counter to just about every volunteer program. The collective wisdom was that volunteers and valuable and if they want to contribute their time and talents you should support them and find a way. There was a lot of truth in this but Matt had seen the result of this thinking in the past. It fundamentally cost more than it was worth and set up the wrong dynamic between the volunteer and the nonprofit in need. Being volunteer-centric actually limited the impact you could make and Taproot had flipped the model around to address this issue. He was also blown away by the idea of nonprofits applying for services in a competitive grant-making process. We werent trying to serve all comers but instead setting as high bar and making it something special to get access to our services. This was not the way volunteer programs were supposed to work. You were, within limits, supposed to help everyone you could and find a way to make it work. To treat services as the same value as cash and lift the philanthropic model to do so was unheard of and ran counter to so much of what he had seen. Finally, he would tell foundations and nonprofits


about how we had productized our services and developed blueprints for each project type. He would bring the blueprints to meetings and show them off like pictures of his kids. He spoke of wishing he had been able to use these previously in his career and saw them as a work of art. Despite all his excitement about our innovations, he was still skeptical when he took the job but felt it was worth taking the risk given the potential. What finally won him over was seeing the work our volunteer teams were producing. The nonprofit grantee that he most often sited was the Point Reyes National Seashore Association. We had awarded them both a branding and website Service Grants and he saw how it transformed how they positioned the organization in the community. But he also saw the transformational power these projects were having on the nonprofit staff and leadership. The process was helping them reconnect with their vision, bond as a team and become more focused and energized about their work. It was making them each stronger professionals and the organization as well. Unlike many of the industry veterans I had seen destroy the commercial start-ups a few years early, Matt didnt join the team to change us or teach us how to run an organization properly. He truly loved the model, appreciated the team and wanted to help be part of making the vision a reality. Key Take AwayDont hire people who want to fix you but instead are motivated to help you do what you are already doing better.


The Smell of Success

Have you ever noticed the distinct smell of certain stores? Most people dont consciously but research shows that they do subconsciously. It is such an important variable in retail that at one point in the 1990s a technology company received significant funding to create scent speakers. The idea was that if you went to that website would have the scent speaker produce a specific scent that they wanted to add to your online shopping experience. It was riddled with problems, not the least of which was that bouncing around on multiple sites would produce a horrible cloud of different smells leaving the room smelling less like a perfume counter and more like a mens locker room. Research by Eric Spangenberg reported in the Journal of Retailing found that people respond best to single simple smells. In a home dcor store, the plain scent of citrus well outperformed a mixed scent including basil and green tea. People spent more when there was only one scent. In fact, all of our senses respond best to simplicity, not just our nose. In 1897, Bavarian immigrant Levi Strauss endowed 28 scholarships at UC Berkeley. His descendants, the Haas family, have become the standard-barrier for family philanthropy in the Bay Area. The family divided their fortune and created a series of independent foundations to focus on their diverse interests. The largest is the Evelyn & Walter Haas, Jr. Fund, which has assets of around $600 million. The other Haas funds include the Walter & Elise Haas Fund, the Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund, the Miriam & Peter Haas Fund, and the Columbia Foundation. While there is some overlap in their funding, they largely fund different areas of need in the Bay Area from social justice to the environment to the arts.

Many local nonprofits counted a Haas foundation as a benefactor. It is rare for a nonprofit to receive funding from more than one given the diversity of interests, however. Under the leadership of Matt OGrady, the Bay Area executive director, we relieved support from nearly all of them. The funding was for what is called capacity building in the nonprofit sector. The term refers to investments made in strengthening and sustaining nonprofits vs. supporting programs. It covers costs like marketing, human resources, strategic planning and technology. These are areas of investment that have historically been painfully underfunded. Donors want to sponsor scholarships, feed kids or provide another bed at a shelter. Very few donors want their money going to implement new human resources software. This is not only true to casual donors but also many of the top foundations. How often do you see an end of the year charitable solicitation in your in box asking for support for their capacity building needs? Only one of the Haas family funds proactively provides funds to nonprofits to help build their capacity. Despite this reality, Matt offered a solution that made it too hard to not invest in capacity build through Taproot - a simple and compelling solution to a challenge they see every day. For every dollar you donate to Taproot, we could generate $8-10 in critical services for nonprofits in your portfolio. As one funder put it, we turbo-charge a foundations funds. Foundations who had never funded capacity building suddenly became our partners. Not only were we likely the only nonprofit funded by nearly ever Haas family fund, within a few years we were working with nearly all the top philanthropic organizations in the Bay Area. Our pitch was perfectly simple.


Create a strong, simple hook. Complexity kills partnerships and sales. Create a simple hook. We raised funds from more foundations than any other nonprofit in our field because we have a simple hook.


2006: Returning to Chicago

In 1996, I left Chicago with a vision to learn how to help nonprofits realize their visions and potential. Nearly ten years later, with the New City office open and new leadership in place, it was time to return to Chicago. Chicago has arguably the most civically-minded corporate community in the world. Over the last ten years however, nearly all the big Chicago corporate headquarters were gone. Some had gone bust. Others merged and moved. Many jobs remained and the employees remained commitment to the community but the power and leadership had been greatly degraded. Unlike the Bay Area and New York City, there was next to no appetite for innovation and despite my short tenure in the sector a decade earlier we were seen as an outsider and the welcome mats were not rolled out for Taproot. But there were a few key champions that enabled us to establish a beachhead. The Wrigley Foundation provided our first support and slowly a few other foundations started to see the value of our work and follow suit. A few years after we opened the office I was scanning the list of nonprofits we supported and saw the Chicago Foundation for Education appear on the list. I had come full circle. We were now helping to bring business support to the nonprofit that drove me to start the Taproot Foundation.


2007: Pro Bono Air

As we scaled the Service Grant program it as a constant battle to ensure we had the right resources in place to deliver on our plan and maximize our impact. To deliver a Service Grant we needed to have a ready nonprofit, sponsorship to fund it and a team of diverse business professionals. Without any one of those resources in place, the project couldnt go forward. In his work as a management consultant prior to business school, James had worked in the airline industry. For a company like United Airlines, success was about optimizing their revenue per seat. In designing their model, airlines had to decide which routes to fly and with what frequency. They also had to pick the right plane to handle the expected number of passengers. Finally, they had to determine the right mix of first class, business class and economy class seats on each plane. Getting this equation wrong would cost them money and often leave their customers frustrated and looking for a new carrier. This was the same challenge we faced as we scaled and James brilliantly went to work applying the Excel magic he had learned in the airline industry to manage our operations. We needed a predictive model that could enable us to forecast likely supply well in advance. We learned that you need to reach out to ten nonprofits to get three to apply for a Service Grant to ultimately lead to one ready grantee. We learned that 50% of volunteer applicants never make it past orientation. We learned that on a team of five volunteers, an average of one of them drop out during the course of the project. We learned that many projects would be on hold because we couldnt fill one role of the five on the team. These hot roles were worth a lot more than other

roles that were in abundant supply and never held up completing the staffing of a team. They were our first class and business seats. They needed more attention and service. These were all inputs that went into the design of the management and reporting systems. Our staffing database was configured to suggest the best role of a given trained volunteer based how to maximize the number of projects that could be launched. We knew which projects to promote to nonprofits to encourage applications for projects we could staff more easily. We built volunteer recruitment goals based on the projected need in 3-6 months. Pro Bono Air was ready to take off. As we scaled, we began to get national attention. We were no longer an interesting local nonprofit doing innovative work. The potential for the Service Grant program was being recognized. I was named an Ashoka fellow in 2005 and a year later Fast Company wrote about me as a Up & Coming Social Capitalist. 2006 brought the Manhattan Institute Award for Social Entrepreneurship which was followed the next year with the Commonwealth Clubs 21st Century Visionary Award and the Social Venture Network Whats Next Award. These honors helped us gain credibility as we entered new markets and spoke with new funding partners. We were knighted and investing in Taproot was no longer a high risk and up start. We had a credibility that gave foundations increasing confidence that they could invest and get their boards to approve the grants. Most importantly, these investments began to attract talent. When we posted a job the response was different. We didnt just get the pioneers who wanted to start an organization, we were getting professionals inspired to help build an organization.

Breaking the Mold

Opening New York City made it critical to expand our board to include local leaders. The early anchors were Toni LaBelle, a managing director at Lehman Brothers, and Elaine Mason, a vice president at MTV. They both became fast friends. We all shared a commitment to excellence and vision for what was possible in New York. Elaine had started her career in the nonprofit sector and like me left in frustration. It wasnt the money but the lack of opportunity and growth potential. She was like so many of the professionals I met in the business community who started their careers in the social sector and ran the other way. Elaine saw the potential for Taproot to make the nonprofit sector a place that not only attracted the best talent but retained them. Toni came from a different perspective. She had been a corporate powerhouse for decades and had recently begun to become active in the social sector through board service. She, like her peers, had been raised on the model of learn, earn and then return. The basic idea is that you should focus the start of your career on learning. You then start to make a ton of money and gain wealth. Then, at the sunset of your career you can focus your energy on returning resources to the community through charity. While still prevalent in the attitude on Wall Street, it is a busted model that no longer fits our society or the needs of new generations. The new model is to blend all three into every year of your career. We must constantly be learning, earning and returning. Learning is a constant part of every successful career and many of those who wait to give back never get there and even if they do they miss 30 or 40 years of the pleasure of being able to have purpose. The other challenge was the very concept of returning

or giving back. It fundamentally implies that you took something that needs returning. This frame of thinking is also retiring with the boomer generation. Professionals today are increasingly looking to have corporate jobs where they feel like they arent taking from society and instead adding value. We needed a new set of goals and paradigms.


2007: Lead with Value

One of the first companies to approach us about engaging their employees in pro bono services was Time Warner. Michelle Sacconaghi had been a member of the Clinton White House and was eager to find more effective ways for the company and its employees to make an impact in the world. She had heard about our work and asked to meet with us to see if there was a way to partner. There was budget to work with us and she was excited to get going, but had one major concern. When they surveyed employees about how much time they wanted to volunteer, it was typically only an hour or two a month and we were suggesting they do five hours per week. Time Warner employees simply couldnt do that level of engagement given what she was seeing in the numbers. This was a challenge we faced working with many companies over the following years. The challenge, however, was not the data but rather the approach to the conversation with employees. What is the first question a salesperson asks someone at a BMW dealership? How much do you want to spend? Never. If someone is simply looking for a car, a way to get from point a to point b, BMW is not the product for them. BMW isnt selling a car. They are selling a brand, an experience and a lifestyle. When Time Warner, and the majority of their peers, ask employees how many hours they want to volunteer, they are asking them for what they want to spend. They are not selling the benefits, only the cost. Try it yourself. How many hours per month do you want to volunteer?

Now consider these questions: - How important is it to you to become a leader in the community? - How important is it to you to develop new skills and leadership training? - How important is it to you to develop your network inside the company? - How important is it to you to demonstrate to company leadership your capabilities beyond your current role? - How important is it to make an impact of personal importance to you in the community? If you could achieve all these goals, how much time would you be willing to spend per month to make it happen? This is not a subtle thing. It is night and day. We tend to always sell service and philanthropy based on cost and not on value. How time are you willing to spend volunteering? How much of your income do you want to contribute to charity? When we launched the pro bono program at Time Warner, even with the significant weekly time requirement, we had little trouble staffing the projects. The value was so high for their employees that they didnt give much thought to the cost.


2007: Growing Corporate Engagements

Despite the success of partnerships with the Monsters and the CareerBuilders of the world, we were growing like crazy and still needed more volunteers. Lindsay was tasked with trying to develop pilots in the Bay Area for ways to recruit volunteers through other channels. She took the post of channel marketing manager. She met with local trade association like the American Marketing Association and Project Management Institute to get them to promote volunteering with us to their members. The volunteers trickled in but it wasnt fast enough or in large enough volume. The Time Warner partnership in New York was producing promising results so we looked at the potential to work with companies to recruit pro bono consultants in the Bay Area. Sylvia Reynolds, the CMO of Wells Fargo, had recently joined our board and showed interest in having her marketing department of 2,000 professionals be a pilot for this experiment. Lindsay and I presented at her marketing department semi-annual leadership meeting and the team was very receptive. Sylvia had the by-in she needed to move forward. She wrote us a check from her budget and had the foundation match it. Lindsay would start dedicating 50% of her time to recruiting volunteers from their marketing projects for our Service Grants. It was an effort in grassroots marketing. There was no organization chart for the marketing department. The marketing talent existed in departments, divisions and buildings all over the city. Armed with a Wells Fargo consultant security badge, Lindsay had to literally work the floors going from cube to cube and office to office pitching the opportunity to put their skills to use for the greater good. The Wells Fargo teams produced some outstanding

work through the Service Grant program including a remarkable key messages project for the San Francisco School District. But the cost was ridiculous. It was costing $1,000 to recruit one volunteer. Unlike the job boards, this was more like an executive search process and the economics didnt add up. It also wasnt scaling fast enough to meet Sylvias needs. We soon had the good fortune of finally getting a meeting with Bobbi Silten. She had recently left her post as the President of Dockers to become the head of the Gap Inc.s foundation. She is one of the rare leaders of a corporate foundation with serious business chops and executive skills and she was remaking the foundation to focus on fewer nonprofits but really ensure their success. Bobbi and I met and immediately hit it off. We had similar passions and interests. The conversation was lively and we both walked away knowing we had to find a way to partner to help her go deep with her nonprofit grantees. Lindsay decided to approach the Gap differently. It didnt make sense to have her on site doing recruitment. We would try instead to train Bobbis team to do the recruitment and create a co-branded page on their foundation site where they could apply to Taproot. It worked much better and we began to do other forms of support for Bobbi including being part of their Gap Leadership Initiative (GILI) that provides deep leadership development and coaching support for the heads of their nonprofit partners. The model leverages the talent to Gap management to provide much of the coaching and training and we were able to use our expertise to help them with the design. Around the same time, Lindsay and I went to Washington to explore opening a local office. It was her backyard as a kid and she was excited to see how


we could bring pro bono home. During the trip we met with Capital One. We werent able to convince them to fund an office in DC, but they shared that they had grassroots pro bono program already that was started by employees in their marketing and tech offices. The foundation stumbled across these efforts and love the idea. They asked us if we could help them turn it into a real program. It wasnt the Service Grant program. Could we really be helpful? Could we afford to have Lindsays time spent on this effort? It was near the end of the fiscal year and we were in danger of ending the year in the red. The answer was clearyes. Capital One quickly grew the program. We adapted our Service Grant learning and materials to fit their culture and strategy. They grew the number of employees engaged and also scaled beyond marketing and technology. Capital One became the envy of corporate volunteer programs. They had achieved something remarkable.


2007: Joel Bashevkin

Joel Bashevkin describes his first job in the nonprofit sector as being at ground zero for the Reagan revolution. It was the mid-eighties and Reagan was closing social institutions which was resulting in a flood of homeless, including a burgeoning number of homeless families. Joel was running the operations of the Boston Food Bank and the demand growing so fast that they simply couldnt keep up. One of his first Thanksgivings on the job, Joel had moved 10 million pounds of food to those in need in Eastern New England. They had never done anything on that scale before, but Joel also did the math and realized it was only enough food to feed one meal to each person in need during an entire year. They were but a small retaining wall trying to hold back a tsunami. He eventually burned out and went back to graduate school and worked in leadership roles at nonprofits working in a wide range of areas. He was drawn to organizations that were struggling as it created space for him to grow. Just prior to joining the Taproot team, Joel found himself accepting an offer to run the Jewish Community Center in the Bay Area. He was given the keys and basically told by the board to consider the organization in receivership. He realized they could either sell of the assets and close down or just decide to make a go of it. He decided on the latter. With his back against the wall, he quickly learned who his allies were. Most of the members of the community were hamstrung. They didnt know what to do in the face of near death. There was however a small group of members in the

community didnt share this paralysis. They were individuals with unique expertise and professional wherewithal. Joel opened the books to these professionals and they worked tirelessly to save the JCC. They provided every type of professional service you can imagine and Joel needed them all. It was this group of professionals who Joel credits for saving the JCC. They cleared the title on their property, retired their debt and developed tighter programs. They had made it and Joel realize it was time to move on. Mission accomplished. That is when he came across an advertisement for a West Coast Regional Director for the Taproot Foundation. His last few years had been a powerful lesson. In Taproot, he saw a different kind of opportunity. He saw the potential to harness the power he just experience from his volunteer professionals for the entire nonprofit sector. It was the highest form of volunteerism and we were the only game in town. Rather than taking a job to turn an organization around, Joel joined our leadership team to help turn the sector around. It was the biggest challenge he had faced to date and he approached with all the passion, smart and energy he had.


2008: Service Grant Tokyo

Ikuma Saga was a consultant at the Japan Research Institute and at the same time running a nonprofit organization called Earth Day Money that operates a community currency program in Tokyo. Leading the nonprofit, Ikuma attracted many MBAs, corporate executives and designers who wanted to help but they were much more willing to point out problems than roll up their sleeves to solve them. The organization had a laundry list of things to get done and these professionals were just adding to the list and not taking anything off of it. You get what you pay for! In March 2004, he visited San Francisco in his role with the Japan Research Institute to conduct research on nonprofit fundraising. He met with numerous nonprofits and explored their fundraising strategies and challenges. One of these nonprofits was San Francisco Beautiful, a community building organization. They were just launching their website and their web site and mentioned that it was being built by an organization called Taproot. He made a note to himself to check out their new site when he got back to Japan and also jotted down in the margin of his notes Taproot. When he got back to Tokyo he review his notes and looked up the Taproot Foundation on the web. He was shocked by what he saw on our site. He recent experience left him cynical about volunteers but here was an organization with the tagline volunteering redefined that seemed to have figure something out. Previously he had lumped all volunteering into one bucketvolunteering. Volunteers did simple easy tasks. Taproot was making a distinction here between volunteering and using the professional skills as almost a form of philanthropy. But he was still struggling with what he was readingit was so

counter to his experience. He couldnt imagine those skilled volunteers could deliver really useful output, not just ideas or advice. The more he explored the web site the more intrigued he became. The case studies showed that it was working and reinforced what he heard from San Francisco Beautiful. The projects were not only getting done but were making a big impact on the success of nonprofits with increased donors, members and stronger leadership. It wasnt just the stories. The materials on the site were so much more sophisticated than anything he had seen before. It occurred to him that has nonprofit could really benefit from a Service Grant from Taproot and he looked around to see if there Taproot-like organization in Japan. Nothing came up and he realized he had the opportunity to doing something powerful for nonprofits and the business community in Japan. Ikuma reached out to me and asked if we could talk about bringing our model to Japan. It was the first time we had been approached about this kind of opportunity and I immediately saw in Ikuma someone who could pull it off. There was no way we were going to open a Tokyo office and my board wouldnt let me officially go near it so I offered instead to be an advisor and we set up our first call. We arranged for him to visit us in San Francisco for a week. Ikuma recalls our first in person conversation as not being very conversational at all. As he tells, he asked some questions with long dull sentences and I answered with one or two words. But he still got some key messages from the call. He should start small and pilot a few projects, which he did in 2005. He needed to act quicklyTaproot had gone from pilot to launch in less than 12 months. Finally, he was struck by the need to scale. We at the time were doing

120 projects and he was anxious to learn how we had built that kind of productivity. He needed more than my high level advice as we set him up to shadow our program and meet with grantees. He participated in an internal kick off meeting of one of our Service Grant teams that evening. He saw how the pro bono projects were operated and what kind of professionals were engaged. On next day, he visited Center for Independent Living at Berkeley, and began to appreciate that even in the US there were huge gap between the nonprofits and business sectors. The nonprofit executive told him about how the business professionals were excited to see the authentic nonprofit office. They loved it. He knew the nonprofit sector in US was far more advanced than in Japan, but he was beginning to see that in many ways they were very similar. It was intimidating to see the long history of volunteerism in the United States and he wondered if he could build Service Grant program in Japan that lacked this history. But, as he learned more he realized Service Grant program was largely independent from the volunteerism context. It felt so contemporary and felt like a perfect fit for Japanese society. Ikuma returned and launched Service Grant Tokyo. We shared all out materials and you could see the direct influence in his web site. It was yellow and shared the same tagline. In 2010, we sponsored a delegation of Taproot staff and volunteers to be part of their Pro Bono Summit. Our team returned so jazzed by what they had seen and reported that it had been a powerful exchange of ideas and best practices.


2008: Premature Celebration

It was everything I had envisioned. We had a packed room of VIPs enjoying breakfast at the Mandarin Oriental ballroom. There were views of Central Park out of two walls of windows. It was like a society weddingor at least the post-wedding brunch. We lined up an all-star cast of speakers including a keynote from Anne Moore, then CEO of Time Inc., and Steven Reiss, chair of Weils pro bono committee. Marc Benioff, founder of, even showed up to accept his award for their pro bono work. was one of several award winners that morning for their commitment to pro bono work. Each received our newly designed Golden Turnip statue which got rave reviews from the audience for its design and audacity. Against all odds the event even generated net revenuesomething almost unheard of for a first time event. We had major sponsorship from Time Warner and a number of other generous corporate partners including Citi. The source of greatest pride for me, however, was that we had kept the entire event on message. Every speaker was on point and nailed it. There was no soap boxing. Even Anne Moore, whom I had never met, sounded like she was a member of our team. It was amazing. They all got it. But despite all this success, I was soon proven wrong. My team and board had said it was way too early to do an annual pro bono awards event, and they were right. We struggled to get any nominations and had uncomfortably given awards to organizations that were not very far along in their work. There simply wasnt a market yet. Right strategy, wrong time. There could be no pro bono awards the next yearunless we wanted to

give it to the same set of companies. The market just wasnt ready yet. We had some great nominees, but there was no one else to give awards to.


2008: Jamie Hartman

I met Jamie Hartman at a sushi restaurant in the basement of a building on Geary Street in San Francisco. It was one of those amazing sushi places with the boats that travel around a little river. We were seated at the river, watching the boats. Jamie had come to the lunch to decline an offer to become a program manager at the Taproot Foundation. Since being introduced to the organization by the Draper Richards Foundation she was itching to join the team, but this wasnt the right role. The role never came up in our conversation. I asked her about her passions and shared with her my vision for building the field of pro bono service. We immediately hit it off and found that we shared a drive to change the role of business professionals in society. Jamie had worked at IBM and at several tech startups and had consistently been frustrated by the lack of structural and executive support for her to be engaged in the community. She lived in Denver while working at IBM but never once set foot in the Denver office. She never felt connected to her colleagues or community. She was constantly on the road working for different clients. The same was true when she moved to San Franciscoshe never set foot in the local office. It was this lack of connection that compelled Jamie to leave IBM. She wanted to make San Francisco her home and need the connection to people and community to make that possible. It wasnt going to happen at IBM.

She then took a post at a tech start up. Like many start-ups, her new employer was moving 100 mph and there was no flexibility or willingness by the management team to ever let her leave the office unless it was to sleep. There was no room for a personal life, much less community. When she left that job, she vowed to leave corporate America to find a way to both get more engaged in the community and help develop a path for business professionals to be able to make an impact without having to follow her and leave their jobs. Business professionals shouldnt have to leave their jobs to do something they believe in, she stated with conviction between sushi rolls. We shared a vision but in Jamie was the missing piece that we needed to make it a reality. She is a social animal, a smart extrovert with an uncanny ability to put people at ease and have them wrapped around her finger. She had experience in a major consulting firm and understood the world we needed to influence. Jamie could be the ambassador that we would need to be able to change our role in the community from being a doer to an advocate. She walked away from the lunch with an offer for another position at Taproot. It wasnt in the budget and we didnt even have a title for it much less a bulleted set of responsibilities. I asked her to be my partner in shifting much of our focus externally and on our goal of building a pro bono marketplace by the year 2020. This hire led to a fundamental shift in our strategy and organizational focus. It was the catalyst for nearly everything we have done in the years since. It was in part due to Jamies tremendous gifts but also the simple act of putting resources against a visioncritical opportunity. It made it real and Jamie made it compelling and successful.


Organizational change often requires bring an external catalyst into the organization who by the nature of the hire is unlikely to be in the budget or planned.


2008: Pro Bono Action Tank

The vision that I shared with Jamie over sushi remains the north star for our organization. By the year 2020, high quality pro bono service would be available everywhere and all the key business professions would have adopted the pro bono ethic. Shortly after hiring Jamie, I met Michael Brown, the Boston-based CEO of City Year. He shared his criticism of think tanksthey are all talk. He had coined a new conceptan Action Tank. The idea, which he had implemented at City Year, was simple. You set a goal and then every year you identify the few largest barriers to moving forward towards the goal and set to work to remove them. When I got back from Boston, I told Jamie that her role would be to lead our Pro Bono Action Tank (PBAT). She would form a council of the leaders in the field and each year they would identify the barriers to progress towards our 2020 goal and work as a coalition to remove themor at least shrink them down to a size that would enable us to jump over them. We worked together to build the PBAT Leadership Council. On the new PBAT website were the names of many of the most influential names in corporate philanthropy from companies ranging from the Gap to Deloitte to Capital One. They were the early adopters in the field and were fired up to be part of building the field. The PBAT website was linked to the Taproot site but was intentionally distinct. It was critical to show that we were helping to build the field and not just promote our Service Grant program. The success of this new platform was measured in the success of the field, not Taproot.

The connection between Taproot and PBAT was a source of many heated conversations. It was not just about avoiding the appearance of being a marketing vehicle to support Taproot and the Service Grant program, but also a fundamental brand strategy issue.


Overcoming Barriers

The very first barrier PBAT identified was that companies were consistently reporting that they didnt do pro bono service and was foreign and inaccessible for them. They acknowledged that their legal team and furthermore, pro bono was really just for lawyers. It didnt make sense for the rest of the company. Working in the field and talking with professionals from every profession and nearly every company we simply knew this wasnt true but also knew that as long as this was the perception, the field wouldnt advance. Jamies first major task was to find examples of pro bono happening at dozens of leading companies and post them on our site. Rather than trying to convert these companies to pro bono, we would promote the pro bono they were already doing and invite them into the club. When we called Dell and spoke to them about pro bono service, it would start with sharing a case study we had developed about pro bono work done by their employees. Rather than being put off and discouraged, they were proud and felt like members of the club. The same was true of company after company that we contacted. Within a year, not only did Jamie have close friends at nearly every Fortune 50 company, they all accepted pro bono services as a standing practice at their company. It was 180 degrees from where we were 12 months previously. With that barrier behind us, the next one quickly emerged at a meeting of the PBAT Leadership Council. Companies were beginning programs, but they were struggling to measure the value of their donations of talent and were not able to count them in the numbers they reported for public benchmarking.

As a result, they werent enabling them to build internal support or effectively market their work as a differentiator. This barrier required a less clever action. The Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy is a nonprofit with a board comprised of a whos who of Fortune 100 CEOs. Their goal is to increase corporate philanthropy by doing annual benchmarking to enable to CEOs to see how they stack up against their competition. They produce THE report on the state of corporate philanthropy in the nation. CECPs report included pro bono service already as part of the calculation of their total giving but only for consulting firms who could establish a defensible valuation based on their business model. They had established billing rates so it was relatively easy to value their pro bono work. CECP was interested in helping but their reports credibility was based on its methodology and being tough on how companies reported their giving. For a company like Capital One that did such a wide range of pro bono services and had no precedent of billing for their time, how could we create a defensible estimate? The solution came from an unexpected source. On a trip to suburban Chicago I met with the CEO of RainToday, a consulting and publishing company focused on supporting the sales teams of consulting firms. Over lunch I described our challenge and he put down his drink and said they had the solution. RainToday does regular surveys of billing rates of their thousands of member consulting firms. They cut the data by seniority and function. So, you could see the range and typical billing rates for an associate at a marketing agency or partner at a management consulting practice.

RainToday provided us with the data and pro bono consulting to help develop a tool for CECP that was able to surpass their standards for defensibility and also be an easy tool for companies seeking to value their pro bono work. Key Take Away: Dont let daunting goals stop you from moving forward. Just look for the current barriers to the next step in the direction of the goal and focus your efforts on it.


2009: The Nation of Los Angeles

Joel Bashevkins in-laws are nonprofit celebrities in Los Angeles. He had spent a lot of time with them over the years in Los Angeles and was in part drawn to Taproot with the promise that he could open our office in Southern California. He has heard about the challenges and wins in opening other offices and wanted to customize his approach based on what he knew of the market and also leveraging his community organizing philosophy. To be honest, Los Angeles is considered a death trap in the social entrepreneurship community. The philanthropy of the entertainment industry, from the studios to the stars, are less focused on impact than show. The government is dysfunctional and fractured. But, it is the second largest city in the country and a place of tremendous need. We had to be cautious but there was no way we were going to shrink from the challenge. The Gates Foundation and Microsoft had asked us to come to Seattle and been able to provide much of the seed funding. It was wonderful in that it relieved a lot of the early funding stress of opening a new city, but we didnt get socialized properly. The other nonprofit consulting and volunteer groups were threatened and resentful. They had been fighting for Microsoft and Gates funding and along came Taproot and just snatched it up and landed in their city. This was the opposite of how Joel wanted to approach Los Angeles. He wanted to build the community support first and then line up the funding with the endorsement of the nonprofit leaders in consulting and volunteering. He wanted them to see that our model would rise the tide for the field and not take away resources. The geography of Los Angeles posed another critical consideration for Joel. Los Angeles County has more people than 42 US states. It is home to 88 incorporate

cities. Within the county, the vast majority of the professional population that we would need to engage as volunteers were located far from the hubs of the nonprofit community. Between them were traffic jams that made people reluctant to visit or attend our volunteer orientation. The first phase of his plan was to meeting with everyone. Like in other cities, he heard the immediate push back. They dont like interlopers. They dont like carpetbaggers. They dont want strangers rolling into town and sucking up resources. But Joel started to quickly find allies and they understood the value to the community and began to be advocates to convince the others of the benefits. The Durfee Foundation became an advocate and hosted a town hall for us that generated a lot of support and energy. His plan was to go slow to go fast and that was exactly what happened. He hit his three year targets in two years and three years and was able to hire Ann Burroughs to run the office which she did with outstanding leadership. Los Angeles was quickly one of our strongest locations.


The End of Volunteerism

At some point I announced to the board that we were rebranding our category from skilled volunteering to pro bono. Volunteering wasnt a category we could own. It had too much branding and competitive baggage. Our tagline had been volunteering defined for many years, and I wanted to change it to do it pro bono. Dead silence. Caroline Barlerin later confessed that she thought I was insane. Pro bono was for lawyers. No one would know what we meant. The pushback wasnt just to the term but also to differences between lawyers and professions like marketing. There was no accrediting body of marketing professionals. There was no marketing school that could create a graduation requirement to do pro bono. Marketing firms dont have the same margins and wealth as law firms. I persisted. We needed to be about a higher calling. We didnt want people to simply be smarter about how they volunteer. We wanted professionals with skills in dire need in the social sector to embrace the pro bono ethic. We wanted them to see that with great power comes great responsibility. We needed to replicate the success of the legal profession across all the business professions. That was our new big hairy audacious goal. Describing pro bono service as simply skilled volunteering was removing the social contract, the responsibility of professionals to society. It was removing the very foundation of our new objective. Not only did we need to make the change, as leaders in the field we needed to make sure that the rest of the field joined us. The term skills-based volunteering wasnt the wrong label, it was in many ways the greatest threat to achieving our BHAG. Perhaps the hardest part of being an entrepreneur is knowing when people say something isnt possible

if they are right or just lack the creativity and vision. Every entrepreneur is wrong more than they are right but if you lose the desire to try and listen to the skeptics, you are dead. It wouldnt be identical to Esthers path, but we could make this happen. We could find ways for professional associations like the American Institute for Graphic Arts to adopt pro bono into their charter and set a public goal for members to contribute a certain percentage of their time. We could inspire pro bono programs at business, design and engineering schools. We could engage the media to ranking management consulting firms by their pro bono service. We could use celebrities in the professions to promote their commitment to pro bono. We simply needed to make some little bets based on learning from Esther and then when we found strategies that worked, double down and execute.


2010: Tough Decisions and a Path Forward

At one point in 2006, we were described as the largest nonprofit consulting firm in the country. We had done it. We had found a way to bring critical professional services to the nonprofit sector at a cost of 10% of their value and across different geographies and functional areas. We had scaled to seven cities. We were doing hundreds of projects for nonprofits per year. Every assumption we had made about the Service Grant program had proved correct. We raised our glasses in celebration and sent out emails across the organization making the occasion. But then our balloon popped. As exciting as our accomplishment was, it was pathetic compared to need in the nonprofit sector and the potential for professionals to contribute their talents. There are over a million nonprofits. We had helped fewer than 500. We were the big fish in a tiny pond of nonprofit consulting in a drought-ridden environment. Or to use another clich, we were but a drop in the ocean relative to the need. The worst part was that we realized that even if we doubled, tripled or did ten times as much work for nonprofits it would still just be a drop in the ocean. My training in dotcoms and the early advice of technology gurus like Bill Draper had failed me. We had been so busy executing our goals that we didnt realize they were the wrong goals. In working at a dotcom, funding was based on the size of the potential market and your potential to become the dominant player in that market. This isnt how the nonprofit sector works. It was a fools errand to try to solve a problem by scaling a direct service model. It is nearly impossible to win at that game. You could never be an The inspired model of scaling just didnt apply to a field that was so labor intensive and

funding starved. To scale to address the need for consulting services in the nonprofit sector we would need to likely generate something like $200 billion per year in pro bono services. That would be roughly 10,000 times as much as we were doing currently. It was sobering. It was time to take a step back and reflect. Where did we go from here? How do we redefine success? What was our role in helping the nonprofit sector rise to the challenges that were accelerating and not showing any sign of slowing down? With scaling the Service Grant program is no longer a viable strategy to achieve our vision, we had to take a hard look at our options. What was success? How could we possibly fill a $200 billion need? There were more problems. With seven offices, there were communication gaps constantly emerging. There were so many new people and only so many hours in the day. Over and over again, teams were reporting that they lacked the information they needed, and drama ensured. We were moving so fast and so busy that we were not providing strong management or leadership in all our offices. Despite the best of intentions we were losing management transparency and the culture was eroding. There were increasingly seven Taproots, overcome with paranoia and jealousy. Were they getting the same attention and resources as the other offices? With seven offices, I was constantly on the road putting our staffing issues and ensuring we were keeping our dozens of foundation partners happy.


Be clear about what scaling means for your organization and what it would really take to achieve a meaningful scale.
It was time to make a decision. If we were serious about adjusting our strategy and building a marketplace and not just being a provider, we couldnt keep operating seven offices. The Bay Area office remained strong, but the market with the greatest potential, New York, was struggling with turnover in the leadership of the office. Chicago was doing well but their growth curve was flattening. Our newest office, Los Angeles, was showing promise but was in the very early days. Washington DC, Seattle and Boston were operating at a small scale and we werent yet at the point that we could hire local leadership. Why did we need local offices? What was their role in the new strategy? We ran the numbers. Nearly 40% of Fortune 200 company HQs, top professional schools, nonprofits, foundations, and target business professionals resided in a handful of cities. If we could have a strong presence in New York City, Bay Area, Chicago and Los Angeles it would be enough to

tip the market. DC didnt fit the bill but as the nations capital and home to many of the national HQs of nonprofit networks we believed the investment was necessary. We had great people on the ground in Boston and Seattle as well as amazing communities of pro bono consultants and funding partners, but we knew that serving these communities would come at the cost of the greater vision and impact we desired. Our Northern markets were no longer strategic. It made a ton of sense in PPT and XLS, but explaining it to our friends in Boston and Seattle was a lot harder. There were real nonprofits serving people in need that were counting on our support. There were business professionals with amazing talents and passion to help. Was it really that hard to keep the program going? It was a crime, but I am glad we had the courage to recognize the greater crime in not pursing our vision. We did what we could to ensure we finished the projects we started and tried to empower the pro bono consultants to self-organize without us.

Redefining Success

The hardest conversation about closing Seattle was with Sonya Campion from the Campion Foundation. She had been such a champion for Taproot and been an advocate to get other foundations behind our model. Sonya had spent her career in nonprofit leadership and saw the value in what we did and believed so deeply in us. We had let her down. How would we break it to her? She wasnt happy but she also understood. She shared one piece of advice that stuck with me and influenced much of what followed for Taproot. Sonya advised me not to think that our materials and model were the important part of our work and innovation. We got all the praise for them but that wasnt our secret sauce. As we look to expand our impact, we needed to realize the our core innovation was our principles and approach. We had flipped the fields assumptions on their head and finally created a form of volunteerism that worked for nonprofits. She challenged me to find a way to scale the thinking and not the model. So on the money. At roughly the same time a member of our board, Brian Fabes, shared another challenge. It was one his board had given him and he recycled for me. Find a way to double your impact every year without growing your budget. Despite the error of our hubris, we had done something important and historic. We had proven that pro bono service could be a solution that works for nonprofits. Given the estimated 50% failure rate of pro bono services before Taproot, we had made a major contribution to the field. We showed what was possible and built a category. It was a modest category, but we had built it.

We knew two things: 1) Pro bono is the right solution to power nonprofits to success 2) The market need is too big for any one organization to address Just as I had done in the early months of starting Taproot I focused all my energy on being a student and soaking up as much knowledge as I could. How had others been able to scale social impact? What are some little bets we could make to see if they might work? From that point our budget began to flatten but our impact did roughly double every year, despite having fewer offices.


2011: Advisory Services an Earned Income Model

Lindsay was still juggling several jobs within Taproot in late 2008 and she woke up one morning with the clarity that she needed to be able to focus on building pro bono programs at companies. We had piloted a few models and we were finding a direction that worked. Our new strategic direction made this important for achieving our 2020 goal. Companies like SAP and Target were asking for help and willing to fund it. With support from Jamie, Lindsay pitched moving into corporate consulting fulltime in early 2009 and showed that it could be self-sustaining before the year was out. There were holes in the logic and some major risk, but she had me sold. Lindsay became the founder of our Advisory Services practice. Our friends at Gap and Capital one become advocates to other companies. They really believed in us and the quality of the work Lindsay produced. It was like they were part of the team. As we began to work with more and more companies, the team also needed to grow internally. By 2011 Lindsay began hiring consultants to join her new program. She got the chance to build her team much like I had in the early days of Taproot. Like a Russian nesting dolls we now had a startup within our startup. This of course made me realize the obvious. We were not longer a startup.


A Virtual Ambassador

As the advisory services program began to build steam, we found new barriers that were standing in the way of our 2020 vision. In nearly every case, these new corporate pro bono programs were being run by volunteer managers with little experience with nonprofit needs, or with the business functionssuch as HR and marketingin which they might find pro bono solutions. At the same time, both nonprofits and companies were finding it challenging to imagine the diverse ways that pro bono services could be deployed. They understood the potential for basic marketing and legal services but were having trouble thinking beyond this short list of a dozen potential projects. We were hearing story after story of missed opportunities. A nonprofit would meet with a companys volunteer manager and walk away with no ideas for pro bono projects and instead revert back to beach cleanup. We needed to find a way for our team to be in very conversation between volunteer managers and their nonprofit partners. There was obviously no literal way to do this but wondered if there was a way to provide a virtual and therefore scalable tool that could represent us in their discussions. The Competencies Map was our solution to address this latest barrier to adoption. The online tool on our site provided a catalog of the roughly 100 most common pro bono projects. For each it described the projects, deliverables and risks. It also listed the likely business roles needed to do the project. When you watched a nonprofit use the tool for the first time you could see their eyes light up right away. I didnt know you could this this pro bono. I never thought of that one. I knew I had that challenge but never knew what type of consulting help I needed to address it.

On the flip side, we enabled business professionals to search for their role and then see which projects nonprofits needed that were a fit for their skills. A corporate volunteer manager could sit down with an operations manager and quickly speak with detail and authority about how they could be a major asset to a nonprofit. They could also begin to see that pro bono service was something that far more employees in the company could provide than they ever imagined. As a final step, we linked our archive of case studies to the project types to show as many real examples as we could of each type of project in the real world. It no longer took imagination to find dozens of ways a company could help a nonprofit. Perhaps more importantly, the nonprofit and business community now had a translation tool to help them find ways to engage to maximize impact despite differences in culture and communication.


Billion + Change

OMG, he said pro bono. The President had publically got behind our vision and was challenging business to embrace pro bono service. Roughly a year earlier I had met with Nancy Murphy, then leading the CSR practice at APCO Worldwide and serving on our board. She explained that APCO had been hired to help advise the Presidents Council on Service and Civic Participation. The council was led by Jean Case, wife of AOL founder Steve Case. It was populated with leaders from nearly every walk of life from a NASCAR driver to several corporate leaders to the President of the University of Texas to the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. It was star-studded production, but as Nancy explained, they had one major problem. They had no strategy for how to use their platform to create meaningful change in the country. Nancy put the question to me directly. If you could have this council and the President get behind a campaign, what would it look like? I shared with Nancy the story Esther had told me about the role of President John F. Kennedy in creating the modern pro bono ethic in the legal profession. In 1962, JFK had called a summit of the leading attorneys around the nation. He urged this powerful group of legal minds to ensure that the new civil rights laws that had just passed were enforced. JFK knew that while he had won the battle in DC, the war would be won or lost in the courtrooms. Without an army of pro bono legal support, the war would be lost and he shared this burden and opportunity with the lawyers he gathered. He asked them to be his civil rights army. They not only eventually won the war, but in so doing created the modern era of pro bono service in the legal profession. They turned this great moment of

pride for the profession into a core part of the very identity of those who practice law. We needed a watershed campaign like this for the business community. They needed to be called on by their commander-in-chief to join arms in the battle to ensure the nonprofit sector was set up to serve our society in a modern era in which the government was receding. This would be an ideal charge for the Council and the President. Gather the leaders of the business professions and have the President challenge them to pledge pro bono support for the nonprofit sector. Ask them to collectively pledge over a billion dollars in pro bono. It wasnt the 200 billion needed but it could be the spark needed and it would help establish pro bono as a field. Jean Case loved the idea and embraced it as her own. They developed A Billion + Change as a multi-year campaign and it became the core focus of the council. While it hit a few speed bumps along the way, the campaign would eventually surpass $2 billion in pledges from companies and transcend the Bush administration and continue under President Obama. Key Take Away: Lobbying doesnt have to involve changing or creating laws. DC is full of councils and committees with powerful membership that are hungry for an agenda. Give them one.


2011: Matt OGrady Day

Star Wars, War Games and Red Dawn were the movies of my childhood. They were all about the same thingthe Cold War and the threat of the United States either being annihilated by nuclear weapons are overtaken by communists. Any day we could wake up to find ourselves wearing red or not wake up at all. Fifteen years after the end of the cold war, in his State of the Union speech, President George W. Bush brought our nations attention to a new threat. It was a threat that had emerged recently that had the potential to rip our great nation apart. It wasnt a foreign threat, but rather one rooted in our own soil: gay marriage. As the president shared in his address, our nation is built on the foundation of marriage. It is one of the most fundamental and enduring institutions of our civilization. The sanctity of marriage had to be protected, or our whole civilization would fall. It was a horrifying time. We all knew that if even one gay couple tied the knot, the whole nation was likely to be torn apart. We now longer lived in fear of a Red Dawn, but a Gay Dawn and it was every bit as horrifying. In the audience at the presidents address was Gavin Newsom, then the Mayor of San Francisco, who was attending as a guest of Rep. Nancy Pelosi. He heard the news about this threat to our nation. Did he shriek in fear? Begin to sob in concern for his friends and family and the pending Gay Dawn? No. He laughed and decided to call the presidents bluff. He went back to San Francisco and decided to use his powers as Mayor to begin issuing wedding licenses for same sex couples. He would show the nation that gay nuptials wouldnt diminish the sanctity of

marriage and would in fact strengthen our nation. It was a radical move, and within a month the courts shut down gay marriage in San Francisco. But in June, 2008 the state Supreme Court ruled that banning same-sex marriage violates both the state and federal constitutional requirements of equal protection under the law. It was in many ways the Rosa Parks moment for the movement to bring civil rights to the LBGT community. On June 19, Steve Van Landingham and Matt OGrady were among the first to get married. They had been together for fifteen years. They shared their lives and even after so many years were an annoyingly cute and loving couple. It was a proud day for Matt. He was marrying a man that he loved deeply and he was becoming part of history. His life had been spent battling homophobia and seeing the impact on the people he loved. To help celebrate, he invited the entire San Francisco Taproot team to join him at the rotunda at city hall to share the moment. Matts wedding meant a lot to me as a friend but also as someone deeply committed to civil rights. The team would be given the day off to celebrate his wedding. What Matt didnt realize right then was that it wasnt just the San Francisco team, but the entire organization across the country. But he also didnt realize that we hadnt just made June 19, 2008 a day off for the organization. We had named June 19 Matt OGrady Day and had modified our policies to make it a holiday and day off from work every year going forward. That was our wedding gift to Matt and Steve. It was also our way to showing our support for the gay community and for every person out there that is

denied the right to be a full member of society. It was a manifestation of one of our core organizational valuesprogress: we believe people, organizations and society must constantly move forward to survive. To this day, Matt recalls the creation of Matt OGrady Day as the single greatest honor he has received in his professional life. Even after his tenure at Taproot ended, his legacy lives on and is a source of annual inspiration for the team. Despite the presidents grim predictions, Newsom had demonstrated that same sex marriage was not a threat to our society but did in fact strengthen it and make it more inclusive and principled. As the oldest democratic nation in the world, we have many holidays that were created over the years. Some are meaningful and others have become detached from their roots. As the founder of an organization, you have the opportunity to set your calendar based on your values. I decided not to make Presidents Day a holiday but did add Election Day to our calendar so my team could help be active participants in the democratic process. Key Take Away: Find the things that matter to you to celebrate with your team to reinforce your values and to connect to your team as people.


A Foundation Center for Pro Bono

At Taproot, as we sought to find the barriers to development the pro bono marketplace, one barrier kept on arising. The marketplace wasnt public. If you were a nonprofit in need of a new website, you didnt know who to ask. Unless you happen to be a golf-buddy with a partner at McKinsey you had no idea how to approach the firm for help with your strategic plan. The world of pro bono services was inaccessible for nearly all nonprofits and there was no transparency about what companies were doing or not doing. One organization had solved a similar challenge decades earlier. In the 1950s the Foundation Center was created to provide transparency into philanthropic grant-making. It was a result of the McCarthy witch hunt in which many politicians accused foundations of supporting communists. The foundations decided to come together and make their grant-making more transparent. What started as a defensive move became one of the most critical resources in the nonprofit sector. Just like with pro bono service today, grant-making used to be a purely secret market. If you were working in education in the Bronx and looking for funding, you had to have a very strong network to know which foundations were interested and even then likely needed to be a golf-buddy with a member of their board. Over the decades the Foundation Center began to amass information on nearly every foundation out there and became the go-to place for nonprofits to research potential funding. They started as library centers but with technology they were able to create a database of foundations. Today there are over 250,000 foundations in their database and that nonprofit working in education in the Bronx can find all their potential funders in minutes as well as advise on how to best approach them.

It was just what we needed for our field. In 2010 I met with Brad Smith, their new CEO, and shared my vision. The Foundation Center would soon be not only a resource for nonprofits seeking financial grants but also service grants, grants of pro bono service. He loved it. They needed to become more relevant to companies and as their new CEO his charge was to reinvent the organization for the next generation. His team put together a demo for how it might work and agreed to meet with the PBAT leadership council to share the vision. They were impressed and got the vision but they rejected it out of hand. They had no motivation to become transparent, especially since their programs were still so nascent and small. There was no McCarthy threat. It was just more work with no reward for them. But didnt they see how it would help nonprofits? Didnt they see how it would put pressure on companies to grow their pro bono commitment? Didnt they see how it would accelerate the development of the marketplace and make it community-centric? It was another General Magic or Pro Bono Awards. Right strategy, wrong time. But this time the lesson was more than just about timing. We had built a leadership council of corporate leaders, the supply side of the marketplace. There was no power or voice given to the demand-side of the market. We were building a lopsided marketplace and this council of leaders was starting to have more influence on our direction than our board of directors.


Eight Stunning Models

At Ian Schragers Hudson Hotel, eight actors were waiting in a small holding room just off the roof patio. The hotel was one of the hottest in New York City that year and the audience of corporate philanthropy leaders stood on the patio in anticipation of the show. Six months earlier, PBAT had uncovered the latest barrier to realizing our 2020 vision. Because of the success of the Service Grant program, the majority of corporate foundations and volunteer managers believed that team-based large projects were the only form of pro bono possible. For most companies, the Service Grant model was not a realistic one. It is too complex and long. It is also a lot of work to manage which is not something there is a lot of appetite for in a corporate foundation with a small staff. Perhaps most importantly, it is also not the ideal model to meet most nonprofit needs. That night, we unveiled our latest researcheight models of pro bono services. In addition to the teambased model, we detailed seven other approaches with associated case studies. One by one, the actors were announced and came down the runway of the patio dressed as one of the models. They personified the eight models. Dressed in running shorts and tank top, one actor spoke about the Marathon model of pro bono where the entire project is done in a compressed time period (often within 24 hours). Another actor dressed as John Hancock and talked about the benefits of doing Signature pro bono programs. (this needs more detailsget from white paper). The audience of our leading partners and prospects not only walked away with white paper on the eight models but also a strong visual experience to reinforce the message. After that night it became rare to hear a company state that there was only one

pro bono model. The diversity of pro bono models literally came to life. Key Take Away: Find an expected and memorable way to help someone change their assumptions.


Network Thinking

Pablo Alvarado worked for five years as an undocumented laborer. He had come from El Salvador in the 1990s looking for a better life. He felt fortunate to have the opportunity and when he found himself in a position to give back he jumped. Pablo understood the importance of Spanish speaking immigrants to learn English. The first step for many was to learn how to write in Spanish. If people dont have basic reading and writing skills in their native language, learning English was incredibly challenging. So, Pablo began volunteering to teach people how to read and write in Spanish. His students were most often day laborers. They would bring him their stories, which they wanted to write down. The stories were like -- last week I was hired by an employer who didnt pay me after three days of hard work or people were arrested or angry residents came out with guns. As he heard story after story he not only learned about other workers but reflected on his own story. Inspired by challenges of those he was teaching realized he had to do more to help day laborers. He found that day laborers have become the public face of immigration. They have been demonized. Many people have described the day laborers as unwanted people and criminals. People who are murdering and harassing women. Communities had to be capable of having a debate in which people are not dehumanized in the process. Pablo eventually joined the National Day Laborer Organization Network (NDLON) and helps to fight for the rights and dignity of day laborers. NDOLN supports a network of 70 day laborer work centers. As he began to work at NDLON he found that once residents speak directly to day laborers, their attitude completely changes. Theyre looking at that person face-to-face, and you cant deny someones humanity in that process. Police officers, after going after day

laborers for many years, totally change their attitude once they begin having a different relationship with day laborers. As he looked to create this change of the image of day laborer stations across the country, he kept finding the same challenge. Work centers across the country are being run by people like him -- community organizers and activists. They dont know how to do marketing. When the economic downturn began, the number of jobs at day laborer stations dropped. The centers need help to get their message out in a professional and consistent way. Pablo and NDOLN turned to the Taproot Foundation. The request was an interesting and new challenge for the team. They werent looking for marketing help for a nonprofit, they were looking to build the marketing capacity of a whole category of nonprofits doing critical work in the community. It was risky, but it presented an exciting opportunity. The nonprofit sector is so fragmented that it is nearly impossible for a single nonprofit to change public perception on an issue. If you could get all the nonprofits in an issue aligned in their messaging and raise their marketing capacity together you might actually be able to make a systemic impact. The pro bono team made an almost immediate impact on the network. With the new marketing capacity, Pablo saw jobs started to pick up at the stations. He also found something perhaps more powerful. The culture of the work centers started to change as well. They learned that if you want to promote a day laborer center, you had to include the day laborers. It was something they were doing but not consistently or effectively. They had to change the culture in those centers so that day laborers can take matters into their own hands. The entire programmatic aspect of their work was changed. As a ripple effect of the

work of our pro bono team a workforce development program as created across the network. Key Take Away: Look for leverage. Sometimes you can only help one person. Sometimes you can help one nonprofit. Sometimes, however, with the same effort you can help an entire network and issue.


2011: A New Model with Kaiser

Kaiser Permanente is actually a nonprofit, a really big one but it is a nonprofit. They are a 167,000 employee managed care consortium based on Oakland, CA. Kaiser is actually the largest organization of its kind in the country. The Oakland Unified School district had recently come out of receivership and the head of the Kaiser Oakland office was deeply concerned about the future of public education in their HQ city. After several meetings with superintendent of the district, Kaisers leadership decided to make an $11 million grant. The schools were critical to Oaklands success and Oakland was critical to Kaisers. Kaiser, however, knew that it was going to take more than money to turn around the schools. Oakland Unified needed the management and infrastructure support to thrive and Kaiser knew that in addition to money, access to Kaisers management team would be a huge boost. The first step was to assign a few members of the Kaiser leadership team to projects identified by Oakland Unified as top priority. They would help provide the expertise and support needed. The more they engaged the more the Kaiser team wanted to do. It wasnt just the management. The whole team was so proud of the partnership and wanted to play a role. The leadership was thrilled and decided to expand the partnership and find ways to bake it into the Kaiser cultureeven including it in the performance reviews and goals of employees. But this was a much more complex task and they knew they were going to need help designing this new ongoing program. They called Joel and asked to meet with the Taproot team to see if we could be hired to help design and manage the program. We helped pilot the program with projects related to a strategic dashboard and management processes for

the schools health clinics. We helped them with the messaging and outreach to Kaiser employees. In this project we had a glimpse at the future of pro bono service. We saw what could happen when a company (or huge nonprofit) really took shared ownership in the success of the community and put their best resource forwardtheir people. This story became part of our narrative for what would be possible when the pro bono marketplace is fully developed. By 2020, these kinds of partnerships will be the norm and not the exception. Take Away: Even when you are in the early days of a new phase of your development, keep an eye out for hints as to what will come next.


Mommy and Daddy Do It Pro Bono

I have never been able to write academic essays. My senior year in college, however, I finally got my first A+ on a paper. It was a Hail Mary pass for a class on Eastern European studies. Rather than write an essay as assigned, I wrote a play. It was a mash up between Arthur Koestlers Darkness at Noon and the tale of the last days of Socrates. If my play had been for a playwriting class, I would have likely received a C or D. But in a pool of dozens of boring and formulaic essays on Eastern European history, my play stood out. Nearly twenty years later a member of the Taproot team came to me advocating for us to create a brochure to help promote our solutions for companies. Everyone had a brochure, they argued. We had to have one. I was reminded of my play. There was no way that creating a brochure for a company was going to get any attention. It would end up in the recycling bin within an hour. Companies are inundated with brochures and executives dont even open them anymore. We decided to do something different. We got funding from our partner Ashoka to write a childrens book. We didnt expect to sell them or for any kids to read them. We wanted to create something we could leave behind at companies that would get the attention of our contact and that they would keep in their office. My wife and I co-authored Mommy and Daddy Do It Pro Bono. It is a hardcover childrens book with great illustrations by the genius Kevin McGrath. Like my play, it is not a great work of art for its category. It sold fewer than 1,000 copies on But, as a brochure it was powerful. The back of the book reads: Not a fireman, astronaut

or ballerina? How to break the news to your kidsand inspire them anyway. On each spread, you are introduced to another kid who explains what their parent does for a living (e.g. accountant, lawyer, designer). The kids then describes how they use their professional skills to do pro bono work to help those in need. We mailed copies to all the companies in our network as well as all our partners in the field. It helped people connect with our mission through the eyes of a kid. In an earnest and tired field (volunteerism) it clearly positioned us as innovative and in touch. The title also caught attention and had the pro bono term imprinted in the minds of many key influencers. To this day, we get comments from people about the book. Business executives tell us stories about how they took it home and it became their kids favorite book for a few months. How many brochures do executives take home and read to their kids? Key Take Away: Dont play games that cant be won. Find a way to change the game.


2011: One Firm

PBAT had begun to create a two-culture organization torn apart between the nonprofit and the corporate perspective. The PBAT leadership council was increasingly looking like a second board and the profile of the team that was staffing the effort was beginning to create its own language and way of operating. When Jamie announced that she was pregnant with twins and wouldnt be able to commitment to continuing to run PBAT, it created the opening I needed. PBAT would be integrated into the organization and no longer be a program. There would be one website and all the offices and functions would take responsibility for the mission of PBAT. It wasnt a clean transition. Some balls got dropped and some of those were never recovered. There remained some residual projections between the two former sub-cultures but the message was clear. We had one goal and one firm.


Board Connection

As we started to look more at how nonprofit used pro bono outside of Taproot, we began to appreciate that nonprofit boards were the key to success. The nonprofits that met as much as 20% of their budget with pro bono services, scoped and secured the bulk of it through their board. This had been a hunch of mine for several years and one of the reasons I joined the board of BoardSource, the leading advocate for and educator of nonprofit boards. Most of the high impact pro bono Taproot made use of for our own needs came through the board. They had the skills to help me scope the projects and the networks to secure what we defined. With funding from Chevron we began to research and document the effective practices of nonprofits who really used their board to strategically secure resources. What we found was shocking. While most of the literature and best practices around board fundraising were about raising cash, boards were secretly and with little support providing significantly greater resources from another sourcepro bono. Pro bono service was much more aligned and connected with board service than volunteering. It affirmed again that we were on the right track.


PR the Taproot Way

As we wrapped up PBAT we started to get a consistent message from our corporate partners about the greatest barriers to building the marketplace. They needed more PR coverage for the work they were doing and wanted us to make it happen. After every meeting, Jamie and Lindsay would return and report that the sky was falling. Unless we can produce real PR value for these companies they wont stay involved. We are not a corporate PR firm. There are plenty of firms that do that for companies. But, after months of hearing the same message from two women I deeply respected I decided it was time to listen. What was really going on? What did they mean by PR and what would satisfy the partners. While the companies would love front page New York Times coverage, the bar that Lindsay and Jamie described was much lower. They just needed something written that could be counted in their metrics as a hit and could be forwarded internally to show success. Getting other people to write what you want is very hard and that it why there is a huge industry that does it and makes a lot of money in the process. You could spend a tremendous amount of time and money and either yield a bunch of great coverage or absolutely nothing. A few weeks later I was speaking with Jonathan Greenblatt, the future head of Obamas office on social innovation, and asked him how he got a column on the Huffington Post. He said he knew Arianna and she had asked him to write it and he also mentioned that he suspected she would love to have me write for them. He sent her a note and confirmed her interest. I was now a Huffington Post blogger.

Lindsay was thrilled. We could now deliver coverage for our partners on demand that they could count as both a media hit and forward to their internal networks. Over the next year I did profiles on over 20 corporate foundation leaders for the Huffington Post and even self-published a book of the interviews. We then started writing for the Stanford Social Innovation Review and finally in 2012 were selected as one of 150 thought leaders to be expert columnists for LinkedIn. We didnt need PR nowwe could generate our own press.


The Great Pro Bono Conspiracy

When we moved our NYC office from the donated space in the Time & Life building to our new digs in Tribeca I lost one of my favorite mementos from my Taproot adventures, a black moleskin notebook with the names of a few hundred of my favorite people. In 2009, with backing from Deloitte, I set off on a tour of the top business schools in the country. I met with students at Harvard, NYU, MIT, Berkley, Georgetown, Northwestern and many of the other top training grounds for the future leaders of corporate America. I shared a simple message with MBA candidates. One of their most influential and important moments in their careers was upon them. Soon they would be employees of some of the largest companies and consulting firms in the country and while they would be valued, they would have little influence or voice. They would be lost in a see of thousands of employees. The best CEOs are very interested in something that only they could answer right now. What will it take to secure and retain the top talent coming out of business school today? They see this as their future and they are eager to hear the reports back from their recruiters that flood the MBA campuses looking for fresh talent. When I was in college, I recall many times when a black person was asked for the black perspective like their could speak for hundreds of thousands of people. Or a woman was asked to represent 51% of the population through her point of view. Not only was this ridiculous and insulting practice common but you would then see educated people then site what they heard as fact. They are basically anchoring to s single data point to create a stereotype for an entire set of people. The cool thing, however, is that this works both ways.

You can just as easily plant stereotypes. The students I met would soon being doing interviews with corporate campus recruiters from nearly all the top companies in the country. There is one question that could expect to get from each recruiter. What are the most important things you are looking for in a job? What I told the students was that if even a few of them stated that the ability to do pro bono service as a top priority it would be enough to implant the stereotype in the heads of recruiters. When they return from the MBA campus to the corporate campus they will tell management that the kids today are demanding opportunities to engage in pro bono. At this point, I pulled out the moleskin notebook. I asked any students who wanted to be part of the pro bono conspiracy to write down their name and email address. Over the three-month tour I collected hundreds of names. An odd thing happened about 18 months later as I was meeting with companies. Over and over again, I heard from companies that MBA students today are looking for jobs where they could do pro bono service. They described it as a new phenomenon and asked for Taproots help to respond so they could meet the needs of their future leaders. Key Take-Away: A few people can make a huge impact on public perception if they are the right people engaged at the right time.


Powered by Pro Bono

After focusing on companies, we needed to make our play at building the nonprofit sectors demand as well as their ability to access and manage pro bono services. How can we help nonprofits use pro bono that isnt provided by Taproot? How can we do it in a scalable model? We were struggling with this question when I ran into an editor from Jossey-Bass publishing at a conference. She had seen me speak and said she kept hearing that pro bono was hot in the sector. She asked if we could write a book for nonprofits on how to do it. Powered by Pro Bono became our second book. It is a 250 page that took everything we had learned over the last ten years and made it available to nonprofits for $34.95. It walked through every step of the process of scoping, securing, managing and scaling pro bono services for a nonprofit. The book was full of case studies, worksheets and tips. I called it our going out of business book. It gave away all our secrets. Rather than doing a train-the-trainer program we had gone directly to nonprofits with a toolkit with everything they needed to be pro bono Jedi Knights.


2012: Competition Means Success

Early in 2012 I started getting emails from colleagues about a woman who was creating a new pro bono program. Several introduced me to her over email and I offered to help but she never took me up on the offer. A few months later someone finally sent me a link to her website, It was a company disguised as a nonprofit that matched nonprofits with individual pro bono consultants to do pre-defined capacity building projects. The business model was based on a matching fee they charged nonprofits for the service. Rachel Chong and I finally met and I loved what she was doing. While I wasnt fan of her decision to mask the company as a nonprofit what she was doing was awesome. She had in fact been inspired by Taproot to create her organization. She was inspired by the idea of pro bono service we had pioneered but she didnt like the model. She had spent time on our site and was turned off by our model. As a junior investment banker she didnt have the time to do a Service Grant and we didnt need the skills she had to offer. She liked the idea but thought the execution was wrong. She had wanted to create a Taproot that made sense to her and her colleagues. Rather than teams they would work solo. The time commitment would be 50 hours and not 100. The experience would be largely online to avoid the cost and inconvenience of coordinating in person interactions. It could be a much more scalable solution. Just like we had been frustrated by the available options in starting Taproot, Rachel had been frustrated by Taproot and created her own disruptive innovation. We had created a Costco and she had designed something closer to She offered a large catalog of small solution with online payment.

She wasnt the only one. Soon, new pro bono programs were popping up like flowers all around the country and world. DesigNYC was created to focus on providing design talent to nonprofits in New York City. DataKind, also based in New York, put data scientists to work on social issues. Sparked, another commercial endeavor, created even smaller projects than Their vision was to create an online pipeline for pro bono projects that could be done by a business professional on their phone while waiting in line at the DMV. Every month or two, we would learn of a new program. The marketplace was developing and not just with corporate programs. Social entrepreneurs were starting to fill niches with their own insights and passion.


A Rising Tide

Jenny Davis-Peccoud serves as the global leader of Bain & Companys Social Impact Practice. Having spent most of her career at Bain, Jenny has been able to watch the evolution of the firms investment in social impact from the incubation and subsequent launch of Bridgespan in 2000 to the significant expansion of Bains own Social Impact practice and corresponding activities over the past decade. Jenny and her peers to tour MBA campuses to find the next class of recruits and they increasingly find the majority of people in the room are excited about pro bono and externships. They want to be able to directly put their skills to work helping social change organizations. The firm has always done pro bono service but Jenny has overseen a steep increase in investment over the last few years. Today they does about 80 pro bono projects a year, and 60% of those projects have people 100% allocated for at least several months. They provided over $40 million of pro bono consulting services in 2011 alone. Bain recently surveyed recruits to gauge their priorities in assessing if they wanted to join the firm. They all reported that social responsibility was critical to their decision and 20% reported they would make the decision based on the direct opportunities they would have to work in social impact assignments. The same is increasingly true at other consulting firms from McKinsey to Deloitte, both of whom have seen their commitment grow steadily over the last few years. Deloitte went from having no formal commitment to pro bono to making a $110 million commitment to donating their services. IBM has recently started making major investments to take top talent in the company and give them the ability to deliver strategic planning assistance,

project management assistance, technology strategies, social networking tools. In just over four years over a thousand employees have worked in teams with not for profit organizations and governments, creating really lasting partnerships. They now strive to operate in the community arena the same way we operate in the business environment. Even some of the firms that we feared would never embrace pro bono have joined the movement. Landor, the firm where Caroline once had to hide under her desk to discuss a pro bono project, launched Band-Aid and now puts their talent to work for good.


2012: Pro Bono Week

The third week of October is Pro Bono Week. It is a tradition in the legal profession now to use this week to celebrate the previous year of pro bono service and to look forward to the next 12 months. It is a national platform that legal aid offices, law firms and companies use to elevate the important role of pro bono legal support in our nation. With the pro bono service tradition growing now outside the legal community, we decided that it was time to create a platform to increase awareness about the field but also to celebrate the pioneers building it every year. We debated creating our own week, but in the end, we believed it was more powerful to amplify the work of our brothers in the legal community. The third week of October would become THE pro bono week and encompass all the amazing work professionals do to lend their talents to those in need. In 2012, we piloted our Pro Bono Week on a small scale in our five cities. We held events for our grantees and pro bono consultants. We hosted a pro bono provider fair in San Francisco so that nonprofits could meet all the leading pro bono providers in the area in one room. We did a training for nonprofits on how to use LinkedIn to secure pro bono help. We light up social media with stories about pro bono service. We encouraged our partners to use the week to send thank you notes to the business professionals in their community doing pro bono work. The first year was a small experiment but the feedback was loud and clear. This was a critical platform for building the marketplace and the brand of pro bono service. It not only energized our community, it energized our team. Across the organization we were able to get out into the community at the same time and see first-hand the impact of our work. It made it real.


2012: Pro Bono Uber Allies

Back in Japan, our friend Ikuma was now working in both Tokyo and Osaka. They run 30 Service Grant projects per year with 1,500 registered volunteers. They manage an additional 20 corporate projects per year with eight corporate partners. He has also reached beyond his organization to train local intermediaries on pro bono management. There are five trained pro bono coordinators at other organizations running projects out of their own locations. Pro bono was taking hold in Japan. The term was be adopted as well as the practices he brought and refined from Taproot. After decades of stagnant corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices, companies were seeking innovative and strategic new models. Pro bono service was filling this gap and had become the buzz word for their new style of CSR. His success had far exceeded his expectations. Over the last few years more an more social entrepreneurs had approached us to bring pro bono service to their country. We were helping organizations in nearly every contintent. In October of 2012, I spent a week as the guest of the BMW Stiftung (Foundation) in Berlin and Munich. For the previous six months they had sent a member of their team, Armin Pialek, to be embedded in our office. He had two goals. He was developing the plan to create a pro bono program in Germany and developing a partnership plan between Taproot and the BMW Stiftung to support the social entrepreneurs all over the world that were inspired by Taproot to bring pro bono to their people. BMW Stiftung asked me to come to Germany to help build support for the pro bono program we had codeveloped over the last six months. The response was overwhelming and passionate. Within a few minutes of returning to New York I learned that they had already lined up multiple large funding partners and many of the largest companies in Germany.

When we met two years ago I told Markus Hipp, Director of the BMW Stiftung, that pro bono is such a natural fit for the German culture. It is about process, infrastructure, professionalism and quality - the traits we associate with the German people. It is no surprise that as we introduce pro bono to Germany, the response is overwhelming. Markus is a man of boundless energy and a profound commitment to civil society. In addition to being the head of one of the most respected foundations in Europe, he is a member of his local parliament and runs a family business with his wife. We hit it off immediately and it didnt take long before we could complete each others sentences. We saw the world through similar lenses and also shared a willingness to take risk to achieve something historic. The potential of the partnership became one of the areas of focus for both of us in 2012 and early 2013. Markus had developed a network of over 1,100 leaders around the world and wanted a vehicle to engage them in projects to create impact. Taproot had helped social entrepreneurs get off the ground in countries around the globe but needed sustained capacity to support them and connect them to bigger platforms. In February of 2013, Markus brought all of our social entrepreneurial partners from around the globe together for our first ever Global Pro Bono Summit. It was a full week of sharing and problem solving that created a community where there was once only isolation. It also clearly identified that pro bono knows no geographic boundaries.


2012: The Online Pro Bono Marketplace

Were working with Taproot because we completely believe in bringing talent together to make projects scale and work effectively; the questions of expertise, knowledge of a particular problem domain, knowledge of management, and so on, are all necessary for achieving scale in the social sector. - Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder and Executive Chairman, LinkedIn We developed relationships with all the major job boards early in our development. There was one company we hadnt found a way to crack: LinkedIn. LinkedIns founder, Reid Hoffman, sat on the board of a nonprofit my wife once ran, and I had tried several times to leverage the connection, to no avail. But by around 2010, LinkedIn decided it was time to think about their social impact strategy and hired Meg Garlinghouse to run the effort. Meg grew up on a farm in Kansas and brought that hard nosed pragmatism to her work in social innovation over the previous 20 years, including nearly a decade running Yahoo!s social investment program. Meg never saw herself as a do-gooder. The motivation was more from interest in the sector rather than believing or thinking she could save the world. Like me, she is acutely aware that she was born lucky, and other people arent born lucky, and therefore there was an obligation to do something about it. We also share a core belief that there are changes we can make as a sector or new approaches to old ways that can truly move mountains. Her father advised her in college to take the professor, not the class. And thats definitely the way she continues to approach her professional life. She looked for companies whose values were aligned with her values, and less the specific job. She was drawn to Jeff Weiner and Reid Hoffman at

LinkedIn, their CEO and Chair. In her eyes both of them are personally and professionally so oriented to creating real value in the world and value in terms of increasing economic opportunity. They also think in terms of how to use our network for social impact. She saw that at LinkedIn there is an amazing the level of interest in leveraging our network for positive social impact -- from executives all the way down to their most junior salespeople. The vision she shared with Jeff and Reid was to create a movement and make it the social norm that your social impact becomes part of your professional profile. That it becomes something thats just expected rather than a differentiator. Not only did LinkedIn have this vision that was so profoundly aligned with ours, but they were sitting on the largest online network of professionals that was structured around the most important variable in building the pro bono marketplace. It happens on nearly every project. There is a deadline that requires working long hours. The consultant has personal or work emergencies that make it hard to find the time for their pro bono client. The client wants to go in a direction that the consultant doesnt support. There is a member of the team that is not pulling their weight. The list goes on and on: pro bono projects are hard. So what prevents the pro bono consultant from jumping ship? Social capital- a persons relationships and benefits her or she sees from these relationships. The nonprofits mission is compelling, but just as compelling is a pro bono consultants reputation in their network. To illustrate the point, consider two situations. In one a nonprofit recruits a pro bono consultant online who has no connection to the nonprofit or the nonprofit


team. He loves what the organization is doing in the community and is really passionate about helping. Everything goes well for a few weeks, but then the consultant suddenly gets a flood of new paid work. What prevents him from simply disappearing? Only his own guilt which is often not enough to get him to stay. Now, consider a consultant who used to work for a member of the nonprofits board. She asked by the board member to do the project and the board member expressed how it would mean for them and the organization for them to pitch in. What are the consequences if that consultant drops off the project? Guilt AND tarnished social capital. If she doesnt complete the project she risks upsetting her former boss who is not only someone she admires and respects but someone who could very well be her connect to a paying job in the future. LinkedIns secret sauce is that it is organized around social capital. The fundamental structure is based on the linkages between you and other professionals. When you search for graphic designers you dont just see the thousands of designers registered on LinkedIn but instead the ones where you have the most likely social capital. LinkedIns goal is to connect talent with opportunity. Meg was working to make the logical extension to connect talent with opportunities to make an impact and have purpose. LinkedIn contacted us to help inform their strategy and we quickly began to see that the stars were aligned. Our strategic intent was so directly aligned and synergistic. Neither one of us could fully realize our social impact vision without the other one. It is exactly the kind of partnership all companies should seek when working with nonprofit organizations. It isnt about money or Photo-Op-Philanthropy. I can

honestly say that I havent come across another crosssector partnership that is more strategic or has more potential for impact. We had done the research with funding from Microsoft and HP to really define the most common nonprofit consulting needs. We broke it down into the 120 most common projects. This gives nonprofits a great starting place to define their need. We each of these project types we share a number of details including the likely professionals needed to help the nonprofit with that need. So, now they know the project as well as the roles they need. LinkedIn then takes the final step by connecting these roles directly to the LinkedIn member database so nonprofits can immediately see who in their network could do the work. The nonprofit went from not knowing what they want, who they need and where to find them to having all three. It is helped begin to build the institutional marketplace we had dreamed of with the Foundation Centers. Using our knowledge and LinkedIns platform, we could connect nonprofits to companies and other organizations that can provide pro bono services not as individuals but as organizations. Over $2 billion in pro bono services have been pledge to Billion + Change, but there is currently no resources out there for nonprofits to approach these companies or others out there that offer pro bono services. With LinkedIn we identified over 300 providers across the country and integrated LinkedIn member database into the information provided about each company. You can learn about a company like Bain & Company and also see who in your network has the right connections to help you make the ask. This makes pro bono from top organizations accessible to small but high potential nonprofits who may not be golfing buddies with a Bain partner. Most nonprofits still think about pro bono service in

very narrow terms. They immediately think of legal support and perhaps marketing but when they see the list of 120 potential projects, they radically change their thinking about what is possible. This then inspires and equips them to reach out to professionals in their network via LinkedIn who may have never thought of doing pro bono service but approached by a specific and compelling ask from a nonprofit their admire, are very likely to get engaged. This LinkedIn and Taproot platform is likely to become the top conduit for business professionals to engage in the community. The great thing about it is that it is driven by nonprofit demand who have the need and not by business professionals. It creates a really healthy dynamic of being client-centric which we have found in our 10+ years build the field is the key to success. We want nonprofits to pull business professionals in and not have them pushed on them as they are in most corporate settings. In January of 2013, we had finally found the partner to leverage technology to build the pro bono marketplace. We were building again.


Culture Club

One of the first questions I asked Lindsay was: What is your sense of our culture? She wasnt sure she had a good answer, but she knew from that moment how much importance I place on organizational culture. As we expanded to new markets, hired new local leaders and took on new challenges, maintaining the culture was one of the hardest and most intentional things I tried to do. At one point Lindsay was asked to join a team of culture carriers from each office to form the culture club. Their job was to define our culture, recommend ways to nurture it, and be the leading advocates in each office. The culture club struggled with the first task. None of the terms they identified for the way we were, the way we talked to each other, the way we did things, really fit. So they made one up: turniplicious. It was too self-referencing, but it did sum up our inventiveness and our ability to keep a sense of humor. So it became a kind of test. If someone didnt understand it or like it, it often meant they werent turniplicious. It was like a secret password to get into the club. Too many people didnt get it. By 2013, turniplicious was removed from our public core values. The board wasnt comfortable with it and pushed to replace it with playful professionalism, which made the same concept more accessible. Sounds like just words, but something powerful had happened, some accommodation that I still struggle with. Turniplicious is still the way I think of Taproot. Some of the timeokay, most of the time?we need to fit our language to others, to all our other stakeholders, to make sure they get the things we need them to understand. On this point, though, I hold firm: turniplicious will always be my secret password.


Charles Chuck Coustan, an early mentor from my dotcom days who helped start Taproot, once shared with me that one of the most powerful roles in a meeting is note taking. A lot happens in a meeting and much of it is subjective. The person who takes the minutes converts the subjective into the official record of what transpired. They control the history we remember. Always take the minutes.