Pro Bono For the Public Good

Polina Filippova
Director of Programs and Donor Relations
CAF Russia

It has become commonplace to hear about the reduction of funds available to the charitable sector. It is no novelty either to say that the demand for services provided by charitable organizations and nongovernmental organizations is increasing. This is a sad story and it may seem pointless to occupy ourselves with it because it seems that we can’t change the situation. However, we can definitely make a change, and so it is not pointless at all.

Good NGOs actively seek approaches to help them survive and to develop new sources of revenue. It is not an easy task and most NGOs do not have a lot of the skills required. Financial analysis, development of strategy and business planning, marketing, organizing PR campaigns and many other components essential for the successful retargeting of any organization are too expensive, and very few of them can afford to have even a part-time PR manager, marketing manager or fundraising manager on the payroll. It most cases, the head of an organization combines all these roles and fulfils the responsibilities of HR and financial manager. Most of them manage to squeeze in some work with their clients. It may seem rather amateurish, but this is the way most organizations have been managed for up to 20 years and have served thousands of clients from the most vulnerable groups.

The situation has changed and such an arrangement does not work any more. In order to attract new donors, most Russian NGOs are in need of professional advice on financial and marketing strategies. They have to learn how to present their case to the donors who have no knowledge of the sector and are not convinced that anything but saving dying children is worth any support.

The business sector can give a helping hand to charities here and many individuals and companies are already doing so. A number of NGOs have greatly benefited from legal advice provided by the Public Interest Law Institute, which aims to institutionalize pro bono practice by law firms and individual practitioners in order to leverage private sector resources for the good of all.

Quite a few PR companies help NGOs and charities to develop public announcements and several publishing houses place these announcements for free. These examples are still few and far between, and professional advice in such areas as accounting, IT, organizational development is not available to NGOs. Many companies are willing to engage their employees as volunteers who act as unqualified spare hands, but few offer their professional resources for charities.

For a professional person it may not sound like the most exciting way to spend spare time: sacrificing evenings or weekends to do what you do in the office all day. However, our experience is that such pro bono work is fun, and professionals get an immediate and pleasurable payback for their input. At the same time, applying your skills in a different sector might be an exciting challenge and a unique opportunity for professional growth.

CAF Russia has started a new program called “Opportunities for Growth” (“Tochki Rosta”) aimed at assisting good NGOs and charities to survive the crisis and to obtain a level of sustainability that will help them continue to provide valuable services to the community. At the same time, the program looks to involve professional firms and individuals in a way that will more actively draw on their core competencies and provide the assistance that NGOs and charities are so sorely in need of.

If you can spare a couple of hours per month in order to help orphans and children with special needs to get a good education, the homeless to find shelter, the sick and elderly to preserve their dignity until the very end, and many more worthy causes, please contact us at CAF and we will help you to choose the charity whose mission is most appealing to you.