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Reflections from the 2018 Global Pro Bono Summit in India May 29th, 2018

By Tony Yu, Endeavour Advisor and Principal, LBCG

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Global Pro Bono Summit in Mumbai, India, representing Endeavour.  The Summit coincides with Endeavour’s 10th anniversary and provided an incredible opportunity to learn about how other pro bono organizations are organized. I was eager to learn about these organizations; thankfully none of them were turned off by my relentless interrogation and were generous in offering their knowledge and experience. There was a myriad of operating models ranging from not-for-profits that are able to translate pro bono initiatives into business values for major corporations to for-profit organizations establishing pro bono arms to create greater impact in their respective communities. This mosaic of operating models spoke to the possibilities that Endeavour could achieve.

Ten years in, Endeavour now runs like a well-oiled machine. As a project advisor, I have witnessed how Endeavour got the process of selecting clients and recruiting volunteers down to a science, all thanks to a team of dedicated volunteers running the operations. However, there is much more impact Endeavour could have, and the only limitation is capacity. In my conversations with other conference delegates, this seems to be a very common challenge and requires a bit of the entrepreneurial spirit, or courage, to have a breakthrough. A hospital executive once said, “No Margin, No Mission.”  I believe this speaks to the essence of the problem. In order for pro bono organizations to create greater impact, they must have the financial ability to take on deeply entrenched issues, to spread their resources and to improve their overall effectiveness. Most, if not all, organizations I have spoken to, have managed to develop opportunities to monetize their services. Be it in the form of government support or fee-for-service for major corporations, they have generated critical revenue which enables them to pursue their mission. At this juncture, as Endeavour is an entirely volunteer-run organization, the ability to generate resources may be the ingredient Endeavour needs to achieve exponentially greater impact. 

Taking a new direction such as this definitely is a bit of a leap of faith and takes some investment, as with all business development activities. As the saying goes, the greater the risks, the greater the rewards. I think the questions Endeavour should consider are, are the risks worth it?  Endeavour fills a unique niche in the market where there are significant needs. In the private sector, there are start-up incubators/accelerators that provide expert support and guidance to budding entrepreneurs. I see Endeavour as the incubator/accelerator for the small not-for-profits that may not ordinarily have access to the range of expertise and experience Endeavour volunteers can offer. It is an important role to fill; community organizations should be given the best chance to thrive and to strengthen their communities. It may be worth the leap of faith to make something different happen, to build up Endeavour’s capacity. In ten years, Endeavour has created impact in over 115 organizations and is becoming a household name. Leveraging the passion and the dedication of its volunteers, I have no doubt that Endeavour can succeed in transforming itself to create much greater impact.

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