The Value of Pro Bono

Earlier this week I read Rob Jackson‘s blog post, Value, cost and volunteer management, an excellent reflection on the interrelationships between cost and value in volunteer management. The thrust of the post is that organizations facing tough budget decisions should consider not only the cost of programs – including volunteer components – but also the value.

Mr. Jackson refers to a wine tasting in which an inexpensive wine that delivered excellent taste was a “superb value.” Pro bono managers and programs are like that bottle of wine – delivering a great deal of value on a small budget. One of the issues identified by the Pro Bono Summit last fall is the bottleneck in the pro bono system created by insufficient infrastructure, including staff. This is not an uncommon issue in volunteer management; in its 2011 report on Volunteer Programs in a Shifting Environment, the Minnesota Association for Volunteer Administration stated “It is unrealistic to expect continued growth through volunteers without increased investment in resources.” The report goes on to state that cutting resources to volunteer programs has serious impacts, and that “…less funding for volunteer programs results in fewer volunteers, less work for the volunteers to do, lower quality work due to less training, and other impacts.” It is critical that budget decisions take into account such impacts in light of the value of pro bono.

And in order to consider the value, leadership must be informed of the value. This point is particularly essential for pro bono programs in light of the legal services delivery system’s current funding crisis. Educating, involving, and building partnerships with the private bar to deliver legal services to low-income clients is critical to the justice system in America. Pro bono attorneys increase capacity through their representation of clients, expand the scope of service expertise, become advocates for access to justice, and provide financial support to pro bono and legal services organizations.

What are your thoughts on the value of pro bono? How do you communicate that value? Leave your comments below.

~ Cheryl Zalenski

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One Response to The Value of Pro Bono

  1. I could not agree with you more Cheryl. I love to start conversations about the value of a pro bono program with the phrase ” volunteers are not free”. From that point on I can explain the need for cost effective management of the resources and the role that constantly having to raise funds can have on a program. It is hard to juggle the day to day operation of a program, administer to all the needs of numerous volunteers, oh and by the way, you need to raise money to survive! Something has to give and yet, like any three legged stool, you need all three legs to be stable!

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