Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pro-Bono Service - Great for Non-Profits and For-Profits Alike

Here at Cabrini Connections we're all about linking the non-profit and the for-profit worlds. In the past, I've talked about how business schools can benefit from sending their students into non-profits to help them work on organizational issues. I also would like to point out that for-profits can benefit greatly from working with non-profits - as the U.S. Secretary of Labor, Elaine L. Chao says in the Spring 2008 issue of The Corporate Philanthropist, "Getting involved in the community contributes to building a positive brand image." It looks good when for-profits are out in the community helping out in a variety of issues.

I especially love it when for-profits do pro-bono work in new and innovative ways. One of my first experiences with pro-bono work was when I interpreted for refugees from francophone West Africa preparing for their asylum hearings and in their doctor's and psychiatric therapy appointments. Attorneys, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists and other professionals, in addition to people who speak foreign languages have the privilege of helping people who have fled from war-torn countries start a new life in America. The two organizations where I have translated are the National Immigrant Justice Center and the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment for Survivors of Torture, two outstanding organizations who do great work.

Another idea that I love is when professionals give their time doing something other than what their professions entail. Many attorneys volunteer their time to help refugees gain asylum, or help people keep homes that have been foreclosed. However, the Judge Marovitz Sun-Times Lawyers Lend-A-Hand Program has done fantastic work encouraging attorneys, judges, and law firms to volunteer their time in tutoring, mentoring, and just helping kids in general. Actually, the reason I have been able to stay on for another year at Cabrini Connections, Tutor/Mentor Conneciton for another year has been because of a generous grant for the Lawyers Lend-A-Hand program and I am so grateful for all the work they do.

A final plug for doing pro-bono service is for those who work in the financial world. I have many friends who are starting their first years out of college as consultants, analysts, and investment bankers working in corporate finance. While this field sometimes has a bad rap, many corporate investment firms, such as Accenture or Deloitte have done a great job of encouraging their employees to donate their financial expertise to an organization. There are many ways that people working in accounting and finance can volunteer their skills in non-profits such as budgeting, fiscal planning, billing and collections and cash-flow analysis.

Another great way is to help people with their taxes. Many people living below poverty have extremely complicated tax forms and organizations such as the Center for Economic Progress have volunteers who are professionals in finance, banking, or accounting help these people do their taxes. To many people in this situation that could mean up to thousands of dollars in tax returns, which is a lot of money for these people.

Of course, I still would advocate for anybody looking to volunteer to be a tutor or mentor. It turns out that 110 people total showed up to our May Tutor/Mentor Conference and all of them could tell you what an impact a tutor or mentor has on a life of a child, and on the world as a whole.

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