How to turn pro bono into your most effective fundraising strategy

The best fundraising resource are your contacts, trustees and supporters. They already know about your cause and have a propensity to support you. Major donor and corporate fundraising experts always advise non-profits to start with their networks. But what if you don’t have a strong or particularly proactive network?  This is a tough and ever present issue facing thousands of non-profits.

With news that 1 in 5 charities are at risk of closure, there has never been a more important time to build your network. Building a base of supporters is hard work and resource intensive. Pro bono creates a unique and much underutilized access point, allowing you to build relationships, whilst simultaneously building organisational capacity.

As in business, relationships are key to successful fundraising. ‘So many companies complain of being hounded by non-profits who see them as cash-cows.’ So says, Ami Bloomer, Founder and CEO of Give What You’re Good At. ‘When I see non-profits approach companies for money straight off the bat, I flinch at the missed opportunity. One of the motivators behind the Give What You’re Good At concept was the opportunity to bring passionate people together. Many of our matches have lead to funding. Bloomer thinks its the tip of a large iceberg, and she would know having spent two years raising six figure donations for Platform 51.

Here are tips for getting the most from pro bono relationships

Use available tools

As part of The Lead the Change campaign, Give What You’re Good At has been busy collecting details about the philanthropic activities of 10,000 companies. They’ve channeled this into a powerful search engine available to non-profits. The new tool integrates the professional database of talent with the companies, so  that where needs fit, non-profits can connect with a professional whose employed by a company known to be sympathetic to their cause.

Don’t make money your sole motivator

Pro bono is a valuable commodity and if you enter a relationship with financial objectives, you may risk appealing insincere. Ensure your organisation benefits from the work and sees the relationship as a long-term asset.

Set realistic targets

Large companies will often plan their philanthropic activities years in advance. Don’t go into to the pro bono activity with the sole objective of money. You may be in  for  a long wait.

Listen More Than You Talk

We all want to extol our strengths, our virtues in hopes of impressing others and, ultimately, raising more funds, but it’s counter-intuitive, but being a good listener highlights your virtues much better than being a big talker. What sets corporate fundraisers apart is the ability to listen and really understand the companies motivators. That’s the kind of behavior that leads to long-term success.

Keep in touch

With the proliferation of social media tools these days such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s never been easier to keep in touch. Keep your volunteer updated on the impact of the project. The individuals may move companies – and who know’s that company may be keen to support your work.

Make it Personal

It’s good to send a physical letter or card of appreciation as opposed to an e-mail. Particularly if you can involve your beneficiaries in the creation process.

Meet Face-to-Face

Where possible meet your pro bono professional face-to-face. You will naturally deepen the relationship and get to know each other better. You could also make plans to catch up at or join someone at a networking event. For some people, networking events are challenges and having at least one friendly face there can give them the confidence to network better. Plus, you will strengthen the relationship.

Be clear on what you have to offer

  • Do you have a unique advertising space corporate could use? Does your office get a lot of foot fall?
  • Do you have a large social media presence?
  • What makes you different to all the other non-profits vying for the corporate pound?
  • Communicate your impact emotionally
  • And most importantly, if you get a warm introduction find out what the company wants from a charitable relationship. See our blog post on 7 pieces of information you need to secure a corporate funder.

Start building your relationships now. Sign-up to Give What You’re Good At now (it’s free).


One man’s warmth is giving hope to Afghanistan

In February 2012, Kabul had its coldest snap for 15 years with nearly 20 inches of snow. 35,000 people were living in refugee camps in Kabul with no heat or electricity. Over 20 children died.

It’s now getting very cold in Kabul and people are preparing for a harsh winter.  They’re buying heating equipment – wood burning heaters, sawdust burning heaters – and warm clothes and shoes to keep themselves and their families warm. But for those living below the poverty line on only a few Afghanis a day, life is really hard. Many have lost family members or have long-term illnesses. They desperately need to keep warm through the winter.

One of the Refugee Camps is in Kabul’s 5th District and has 45 families with 250 people living in desperate circumstances, mostly from Kunar, Nangarhar and Nooristan provinces.

British-based charity Afghan Action, lead by Chris Beales is working with the Afghan sister NGO, the Afghan Training and Development Organisation, to provide help where it’s most needed. On their site in south west Kabul, they educate and train young women to sew and make clothes and help them form their own businesses. The money is used by women to feed, cloth and shelter their families.

Workers and trainees will produce warm quilts for homeless people and those living in tents and shelters, to help them to keep warm in the winter and prevent some of the sickness and death the bitter cold causes every year.

Chris has dedicated himself to reliving suffering of the Afghan people and made significant strides in delivering basic living conditions. This winter Chris will be selling duvets and carpets to raise funds for the people of Kabul.

Chris has been supported by a dedicated GWYGA professional who has been instrumental in selling the produce of Afghanistan online with a free Google Adwords account. Chris needs support from professionals with sales, graphic design and marketing skills. Learn more here.

Chris is working tirelessly to ensure this winter, no Afghani children are left out in the cold.

Increase major giving – promote skilled volunteering to the wealthy

Any good major donor fundraiser knows: cultivation is the key to realise major gifts. It’s a popular truism that the more sustained cultivation: the bigger the financial commitment. I am reminded of a conversation I had with one major donor, who sowed the seeds for Give What You’re Good At:

“I wanted to get to know the organisation, to find out who was in charge, what their motivations were, if they understood the problem they were trying to address – to  ensure my donation would really achieve change. Believing I had skills to offer up, I asked the volunteer manager if I could use my commercial acumen. The answer was a flat-no. I tried to understand why, but the situation frustrated me. There’s only so much insight you can gleam from stuffing envelopes”

As the conversation above attests to, donors increasing want to see evidence before they part with their hard earned money. This is a trend likely to continue given the slashes to tax relief.

People who have volunteered with an organisation are much more likely to leave organisations legacies and give major gifts.

Major donors have considerable professional expertise to share through their volunteering. If managed through discrete, structured projects volunteering is an excellent cultivation method.

We want to help increase major gifts and draw in skills to help organisations grow.

Give What You’re Good At could be “huge” says Minister for Civil Society

Give What You’re Good At News release

20th March 2012 – for immediate release

Charities and social enterprises get access to professional services – at a tenth of the market rate.

In times of economic hardship, when many charities are struggling to maintain funding from public and private sources, an innovative skills-matching service offers a new route to high quality services with its volunteer database of experienced and committed professionals who have relevant, in-demand skills.

Give What You’re Good At is an online technology platform matching professionals who want to give their skills with charities and social enterprises that need them.

The organisation already has around 200 professionals signed up and has attracted the interest of high profile corporate partners keen to give their employees a well managed way of making an impact with their skills.

Minister for Civil society Nick Hurd met with Give What You’re Good At founder Ami Bloomer last week and praised the innovative, professional and accessible proposition, noting the clear appeal to influential corporate businesses. “[Give What You’re Good At] could be huge… I think they’re onto something. Research published by Zurich shows relevant pro bono [work] enhances employee well-being and productivity,” he said.

The type of skills already available on Give What You’re Good At’s database include marketing, design, online and social media, accountancy, IT and business strategy. Ami Bloomer explains, “We use a highly structured approach to make sure there is a perfect match between the professional’s skill and the charity’s needs. Our project library allows organisations to easily identify and select projects that address common needs. Each project template has a description of the project, the deliverable, step-by-step project components, average time required, nonprofit requirements, volunteer requirements and the average cost of the project if the nonprofit had to pay for it at market rates. Individual volunteers are assured of professional and personal satisfaction in completing the job effectively, using the available time they have to commit, while charities are assured a big cost saving.” Projects are structured to fit with the lives of working professionals and typically demand up to five hours a week over one to three months.

Non-profit organisations already signed up with Give What You’re Good At include The Blue Cross, Sparks, MS Research IPSEA, The Social Mobility Foundation and Sky Badger to The Rescue. Naomi Marek, Operations Manager from Sky Badger to the Rescue, a new charity serving disabled children and their families says, “It’s going to save us a fortune!”

Professionals already working on matched projects are equally delighted with the ability to connect easily with causes they care about. Graphic designer Gary Jones has worked with special educational needs charity IPSEA to redesign promotional leaflets and posters. “Working in a fast and corporate environment can often become monotonous and ordinary. Volunteering through Give What You’re Good At gave me the opportunity to use my skills for good and make a big impact with my limited time.”

Until Friday 23rd March Give What You’re Good At is offering half-price introductory membership which normally starts at a sliding scale of £250. Membership includes access to pre-packaged projects and one project match – guaranteeing a saving ten times the cost of outsourcing. To find out more register with Give What You’re Good At sign-up at .


For further information, please contact Ami Bloomer on or 01234 245 539.

Notes to editors:

How Give What You’re Good At works:

Give What You’re Good At is an online dating site for volunteers. Volunteers share information about their experience, skills and interests, and in return, the GWYGA  team sends the volunteer a matching list of project options.

Non-profit members subscribe to Give What You’re Good At with a one off membership fee of £250 (discounted until 23rd March 2012). One project match is included in the membership fee, then for each subsequent project, the member pays on a sliding scale, but never more than £250 per match. Projects typically save non-profit organisations between £2,500 and £15,000 so the fee is equivalent to a tenth or much less of the cost of outsourcing the task. The fee covers the dedicated recruitment costs, access to all the projects, an account manager to access your organizational needs, invitations to networking events, among other benefits and ensures that both the volunteer and the organisation using their services treat the project as a professional commitment.

Available for interview and comment:

Ami Bloomer, founder and managing director of Give What You’re Good At

Jonathan Fairey, Technical Director of The Community Film Unit (currently saving time, money and overheads by using a Give What You’re Good At volunteer to review business plan)

Naomi Marek, Operations Director of Sky Badger to the Rescue

About the meeting with the Minister for Civil Society:

Ami Bloomer met Nick Hurd, The Minister for Civil Society on Monday 12th March. The Minister is supporting GWYGA will introductions to influential nonprofit leaders. Give What You’re Good At has been invited to feature on a special civil service volunteering portal which aims to get 30,000 civil servants volunteering.


Give What You’re Good At screenshot

Ami Bloomer