Skills Based and Pro Bono Volunteering: What are they?

Skills based and pro bono volunteering take volunteering to the next level!  These specific types of volunteering provide great resources to nonprofit organizations and can enhance organizational sustainability in ways that may not have been previously utilized.   These types of volunteer efforts often give nonprofits the resources that they cannot financially afford, but that they need to be successful and sustainable.   

As per Wikipedia, Skills-based volunteering “is leveraging the specialized skills and talents of individuals to strengthen the infrastructure of nonprofits, helping them build and sustain their capacity to successfully achieve their missions. This is in contrast to traditional volunteering, where specific training is not required”.  Pro bono volunteering, as per Wikipedia, “is professional work undertaken voluntarily and without payment or at a reduced fee as a public service“.  So, by these definitions:

  • Skills based volunteering is when an individual shares their specialized skills and talents to a nonprofit as a volunteer.
  • Pro bono volunteering is when an individual shares their professional expertise to a nonprofit as a volunteer.


There is not a huge difference in the above definitions.  They both define volunteer efforts where a person’s specialized skills/training/talents are given to a nonprofit organization without financial compensation.  Taproot Foundation has created and provides the below visual to help outline the “full spectrum of community investment strategies that companies deploy”:


As per the above grid, volunteers to nonprofit organizations can fall into 4 categories.  In italics, I have added a title to each category:

  • General Volunteer– Hands on (with clients) volunteers that do not need specific or specialized skills to complete volunteer tasks.
  • Skills based Volunteer– Hands on (with clients) and specialized volunteers that have a skills-based skill or talent to complete volunteer tasks.
  • Board-Based Volunteer– Governance (board service) volunteers that have a skills-based skill or talent to assist with board responsibilities to help govern the nonprofit organization.
  • Pro Bono Volunteer– Specialized volunteers that require professional expertise in a particular field and/or occupation to complete volunteer tasks, programs and/or projects towards organizational capacity building.


There is great value in skills based and pro bono volunteering.  As per the Taproot Foundation, “Some of the strongest nonprofits in the country use pro bono to supplement up to 20% of their budgets”.   Having said this, I do not want to overshadow the amazing work that general volunteers do for nonprofit organizations around the world.   Many nonprofits would not exist if not for the general volunteers that they utilize.  Many nonprofits are 100% volunteer run!  All types of volunteers are a critical part of nonprofit organizations.  I revere and applaud them all!


Photo credit to: Microsoft Office Clip Art


Jeanne Ward is a Consultant and Personal Strategist who brings her knowledge of psychology, strategy and personal fulfillment to her current work. Jeanne started her career by helping mentally ill inmates to ‘get their lives back on track’ as they integrated back into society from jail in NYC. She leveraged this experience with a Social Work degree to manage teams who were supporting people trying to move back into the workforce. She later lived in Atlanta, GA and Frankfurt, Germany where she began consulting with nonprofit organizations to guide them on their strategy, volunteer development, and organizational development as well as to support the development of their leaders and board of directors. After the jolt of a divorce, Jeanne found herself doing a lot of soul-searching. Digging deep, she arrived at a new-found appreciation for herself and the world around her. This journey taught her that when we start with improving ourselves, the benefits multiply. Jeanne realized that her strengths of strategic thinking, relationship building, and implementation planning could be combined into her ongoing passion of personal leadership. Hence, her personal strategy work was born. Jeanne helps men and women between the ages of 35 and 55 who are fed up with their corporate jobs to create fulfilling professional and personal lives through the development of a personal strategic plan. This work ensures that her clients identify their professional and personal goals as well as create a plan to make those goals a reality. Jeanne is also the Executive Director of the Atlanta Road Trotters Kid’s Running Club, a nonprofit organization that provides a platform for children to build a foundation of running health and fitness which leads to a better connection to the organized running community as well as a strong foundation of Discipline, Self-Esteem, Respect and Team Work. She has also co-authored a workbook on networking, founded and organized the National Association of Social Workers-Georgia-sponsored ‘Social Service Career Network’ and organized a summit for the National Alliance for Mentally Ill attended by over 100 organizations from 6 Atlanta counties. Previously, she sat on the board of NASW GA as their Secretary as well as on the board of NAMI GA/DeKalb as their Co-President, was a senior consultant for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits and helped to run a capital campaign for an independent school. Jeanne has an MSW from Hunter School of Social Work (City University of New York), an MA in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice (City University of New York) and a BA in Psychology from Emory University. Jeanne lives in Atlanta with her ten-year-old son.

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