Guerrilla Intelligence Pro Bono Marketing

For consultants, pro bono work is nonmarketing marketing. It's a careful balance between the desire to contribute to the community and to build your business. To be successful, follow your passion for community service and the commercial benefits that accrue will be a bonus.

risks and put less experienced consultants in roles they might not consider with paying clients. When these consultants develop the following requisite skills, they are more effective in their work with commercial clients:

1. Ability to work independently: Pro bono projects are often understaffed because many of the organization's team members are buried in other endeavors or are performing other part-time volunteer work. As a result, volunteer consultants usually work independently, make tough decisions, and gain vital experience.

2. Creativity: Volunteer consultants usually have less access to funds, people, and other resources than they would on paying projects. So they often have to find more creative solutions to accomplish even the basic tasks. On a project to create a Web site for a nonprofit organization, a volunteer consultant had no one on his team who could design the graphics for the new site. To resolve the problem, the consultant called every Web designer in town and obtained the necessary volunteer help.

3. Process consulting skills: Many pro bono projects are staffed with part-time volunteers, consultants, and the nonprofit's employees. This creates the need for strong process skills like meeting facilitation, data analysis, and project management. Creating a cohesive and productive team from a disparate group is challenging and provides volunteer consultants with invaluable project skills for future assignments.

4. Executive communication: Often, the usual business hierarchy is minimal or nonexistent in nonprofits, so consultants must interact with people at every level, from part-time volunteers to board members. A consultant with less than two years of experience had to present her team's recommendations to a nonprofit's board that included the executive director, two state senators, a deputy mayor, and two industry CEOs. That presentation conquered her nervousness in dealing with high-powered executives.

5. Leadership: Consultants working on pro bono projects are expected to step up to leadership roles, even if it's a stretch for them. Three consultants led an education program that required them to manage the activities of 700 volunteers working in 23 locations. After that effort, leading other projects seemed tame.

6. Collaboration: Community and civic organizations draw volunteers from fields such as education, business, the arts, and politics. Diverse groups frequently must come together to meet common project goals. On an assignment to develop a management structure for a nonprofit's project to reduce urban violence, the team included consultants, former street gang members, the clergy, law enforcement officials, and several prominent politicians. The consultants, in collaboration with the team, found common ground among the team members that formed the basis of a solution. When the consultants subsequently had to deal with a dispute between a client's manufacturing and distribution executives, bringing the opposing parties together was a piece of cake.

7. Getting it done: Consulting projects may be extended because of scope changes or other external factors. With paying clients, extensions are usually acceptable because the clients pick up the bill for the extra services, but not in the pro bono world. Consultants must be dedicated to getting the expected results within the expected time frame no matter what other events create barriers.

When a firm was working for a local nonprofit, it learned that the executive director was being replaced. The effect of the change was to freeze the team's activities until the new director's priorities could be determined, which could take months. Knowing that after a few weeks it would be virtually impossible to reconstitute the team, the consultant sought the opinions of the nonprofit's board and the new director. With their help, the project proceeded uninterrupted.

Volunteer work, when performed well, can provide exceptional media exposure, build your business identity, and boost your community and business awareness. The willingness to do good deeds can differentiate a firm and bring it to the attention of potential clients. And volunteer service reminds us not to lose track of our values in the pressure-cooker world of business.

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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