Have you ever taken a road trip where Google Maps was on the fritz? You’re in the middle of nowhere, desperately in need of coffee, and no idea what route to take. One wrong turn could be the difference between getting to your destination on time or an hour too late (and/or under-caffeinated!).
Taking on a project of any kind (including a pro bono one) without a scope or a plan is much like being lost without a map. One wrong turn—or one task outside of scope—and you could be jeopardizing your outcomes.
The Taproot Foundation has been helping nonprofits scope pro bono projects for over 16 years, and they have a few pointers on how to build a project scope to ensure success!
Before you dive in, make sure pro bono is the right fit for your project by starting here.
First of all, what is a project scope?
The project scope is your roadmap, clearly defining what a successful outcome looks like and your path to getting there. While you’ll want the expert input of your skilled volunteer before finalizing this scope, you should take the time now to outline the work in a clear and tangible way. This will ensure that you and your volunteer (or volunteers) have all the guidance you need for a stellar result.
Step 1: What will this project accomplish?
Describe the objectives, activities, deliverables, and specific “chunks” of work that will be accomplished by the individual or team. Where possible, be detailed.
Example: You’re doing a little brand refresh—using your existing logo—in anticipation of your organization’s 20th anniversary. Keeping in mind that pro bono is good for clearly defined projects, the deliverable noted in this section might be a new style guide.
Step 2: What won’t this project accomplish?
What you won’t do is just as important as what you will do. Spell out any activities that are closely related but won’t be covered as part of the project. And don’t skimp here! This section will keep you and your volunteers honest and will cut down on any “scope creep” that might happen.
Example: You know a new style guide is on the horizon as part of your brand refresh, but you need to be clear about what’s out-of-scope. Things like designing a new logo or updating existing collateral with the refreshed branding might fall outside of this project.
Step 3: How will we know the project is complete?
Include a clear end point that will indicate completion. This isn’t a deadline – this is a detailed description of what success looks like.
Example: The completion criteria for this brand refresh might be that the volunteer will deliver the new style guide and provide a training for staff on how to use the new style guide in their daily work.
Step 4: What timeline and resources are important for the project?
This is where your timeline comes in, keeping in mind that pro bono support isn’t ideal for urgent projects. You should also note any additional resources that might be needed for the project, like a budget for secondary research or printing.
Example: You’ll need a budget in place for printing the style guides and perhaps providing coffee for that staff training.
Now that you have a project scope (and plenty of coffee!) in place, it’s time to find the right person for the work! Tap into your already existing network or post your project on Taproot+, where you can team up with skilled volunteers from across the country.