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A Skills-Based Volunteering Call to Action

Pro bono – short for pro bono publico, "for the public good" – is defined by the Taproot Foundation as professional services (marketing, legal guidance, human resources, technology, and so on) donated to nonprofits to further their missions. It also offers certain benefits for volunteers.

By reading this post you’ll learn how skills-based volunteering can:

  • Offer a good alternative to cash donations

  • Create personal and professional networking opportunities

  • Add substance to your resume

  • Increase your community impact

You, as an experienced business professional, have the opportunity to help nonprofits advance their missions using your specialized skills. You may be asking, “But I volunteer all the time! What more do you want from me?” Great question! The answer is, pro bono service is different. Nonprofits have a lot of needs—sometimes what they need is a fence painted around their community center. But often, what they really need are business services. Marketing, HR, technology—these are all critical for a nonprofit to function effectively, but are often too expensive to hire for.  So, before you spend your time painting that fence around the community center, consider ways to maximize your value by giving what you’re best at!

Advantages for Young Professionals (aka YOU)

Pro bono service presents a tremendous opportunity for professional growth, particularly for early-career professionals. By volunteering your expertise, you are able to practice using your skills in a new, consultative way. This helps keep your skills sharp, while expanding and deepening your professional network and potentially exposing yourself to a whole new sector. Not only are you able to create connections within the community, you are able to maximize your impact.

Donate time instead of cash

There are many aspects of skills-based volunteering that are particularly appealing for young professionals.  With a number of hefty financial obligations (e.g., student loans) coupled with the salaries that accompany budding careers, young professionals are often managing strict budgets. Skills-based volunteering gives them the opportunity to donate their time and expertise as opposed to their funds. While this type of donation is not tax-deductible like cash contributions, organizations rely on the volunteered expertise of individual professionals. Even leading nonprofits like rely on pro bono services for as much as 20% of their budget.

Rare Networking Opportunities

Individuals brought together on nonprofit projects come from diverse backgrounds. In addition to the nonprofit’s staff, you may encounter local officials, community leaders, and other professionals high up in their company’s pecking order. This type of assemblage is hard to simulate in other networking situations, and it offers a unique opportunity to make contacts both outside of your field and with prominent individuals. Incidentally, because you are interacting with these individuals in a capacity that naturally demonstrates your skills and work ethic, you may be able to call on these individuals to act as professional references on your next job hunt.

Add Weight to your Resumes

While you may have boundless aptitude in your field, it can be difficult for young professionals to land competitive jobs or negotiate a salary effectively with a skimpy resume. A multi-purpose method to add weight to your resume is to bulk out your Community Engagement section. Listing organization memberships is a way to illustrate to employers what your outside interests are and signals that you are invested in your area (a potential indicator that you’ll be sticking around for a while). Better still if you are able to incorporate your professional skills into your community involvement. This doubles down on your qualifications, and conveys consulting experience. Moreover, you can continue to participate in skills-based volunteering projects while maintaining a traditional, full-time job. This allows you to hold down steady employment while developing your resume as an investment toward future opportunities.

Increased Community Impact













Skills-based volunteering is very much aligned with the millennial ethos. According to an Associated Press-GfK poll, people under 30 are more likely than previous generations at their age to claim that citizens have a “very important obligation” to volunteer (specifically, 20% in 2013, up from 14% in 1989). With this ever-deepening commitment to making local communities a better place for everyone, skills-based volunteering offers another vehicle to give back.

Think about your favorite nonprofit or community organization. Now ask yourself: what could they accomplish with 20% more? 20% more time, 20% more money, 20% more expertise. Companies on average spend 25% of their budgets on overhead or administrative functions (Bridgespan). Why should nonprofit organizations operate differently? These functions are critical to the success of every company, and yet funding for these same resources for nonprofits is much more limited. According to a 2009 Deloitte study, 62% of nonprofits reported a need for additional pro bono resources. Bias against nonprofits spending money on backend or administrative functions can prevent them from investing in their growth or organizational effectiveness. Pro bono services provide a critical path to access these resources.

find skills-based volunteering opportunities near you

If you want to lend your services to nonprofit organizations, there are a number of ways to find opportunities in your community. Below are a few of the most popular.

Online Volunteering Platforms

Similar to websites devoted to publishing job listings (think or, there are platforms dedicated to providing skills-based volunteering listings.  Here are some of the most popular platforms for skills-based volunteering; however, you can do your own web surfing to see what other opportunities turn up:

Inquire at your Preferred Organization

Some nonprofits may list their volunteering openings on their websites (as some companies may post career listings). However, with stretched staff, to-the-minute website updates are typically not a priority. Get in touch with your preferred organization and ask them directly if they could use someone with your skills.

Local Volunteering Matching Services

Some organizations perform volunteer matching with a regional focus, making partnerships with local organizations to become intimately aware of their latest needs.

Employer Partnerships








You may already have opportunities to volunteer that you just don’t know about! Some companies partner with local organizations in order to offer employees the chance to donate their skills. Pro bono programs are effective ways for companies to increase employee engagement and develop talent while improving their reputation and ability to innovate. As a result, many companies  even offer employee incentives, such as paid time off work in order to participate in volunteer activities. These programs are not always well-advertised by companies that offer them, so if you are interested, check in with your HR department for more information.

Want to become more involved in the Portland community? Get in touch with the PDX Global Shapers!

Global Shapers is a unique initiative of the World Economic Forum that was created to allow young change-makers united by a common desire to shape the future and build a more peaceful and inclusive world starting with the communities they reside in. The Global Shapers Community, created in 2011, is made up of a global network of Hubs developed and led by youth in their 20s who are exceptional in their potential, achievements, and drive to make a contribution to local communities.

Here in Portland (Oregon) we're collaborating with community leaders, institutions, and businesses to address challenges facing our rapidly developing city.

To learn more about our projects and to discuss more skills-based volunteering, drop us a line at or add your email address below to get more information about new skills-based volunteeering opportunities from us!