Pro Bono Perspectives: Anmol Mehra
We all know that skills-based volunteering is a great idea for companies, its people and, most importantly, the nonprofits that deliver critical services every day to our communities. Still, whether you’re excited to bring a skills-based volunteer program to your company, become a skills-based volunteer yourself or find professionals to help move your nonprofit organization to the next stage, it can be hard to figure out how to take that first step in making SBV a truly effective resource for you!
Common Impact is excited to launch Pro Bono Perspectives, a series of profiles – featuring people like you – who took a leap into skills-based volunteering. From intrapreneurs, to entrepreneurs, to nonprofit executives, to corporate leaders – these individuals all have their own stories to tell, successes to share, lessons they’ve learned and tools they’ve used.
Meet Anmol Mehra. As the Board Chair of a small and growing nonprofit, Urbanity Dance, Anmol works closely with staff to build the foundation Urbanity needs to scales its successful model of inspiring individuals and communities through movement and dance. Read Anmol’s story and hear how he brought skills-based volunteering to the table at Urbanity’s Board conversations and used it to solidify and stabilize the organization during its rapid growth.
Describe your work and what drives you.
I had been a supporter of the arts for quite some time and was always interested in the theater, art, and music while I was growing up. Four years ago, I met Betsi Graves, the founder of Urbanity Dance and was really impressed by what she and the organization had already accomplished. I joined the Board at a point where the organization had no employees, no office, no studio. Betsi wanted to take the organization to a new level.
It has been eye opening that I have areas of expertise that is of real value to the community. Board service, to me, has been about helping the organization to grow by making sure it adheres to its value system and is financially sound. It’s been rewarding to watch the organization succeed and grow.
What was your first exposure to Pro Bono?
Common Impact was really my first introduction to skills-based volunteering. I had heard of pro bono in the legal profession, but it didn’t become real to me until I knew of this specific opportunity in my community.
Why did you become “hooked” on Pro Bono / Skills-Based Volunteering?
Urbanity was growing financially and getting a bit more complex. We needed help building our financial systems, for day to day management and strategic decision making. The use of a pro bono team was a great experience, and an opportunity to leverage the deep expertise of finance professionals. Common Impact made sure the team had the right skills, stayed engaged throughout, and that the project progressed as planned. Our initial project helped lay the infrastructure for what we do now.
What benefit do companies get out of Skills-Based volunteering? What can a nonprofit environment "teach" a business?
I work at a large company and I really enjoy my work – but I am a tiny cog in a really big wheel. For corporate skills-based volunteers, working on a nonprofit project with a tangible goal provides an opportunity to see the impact you’re having on an organization. It reengages you in your work. It puts a magnifying glass on the skills you already have and develops new skills.
What has been most rewarding about participating in a Pro Bono program?
We didn’t have the expertise, time or budget to implement some of our priority projects. Working with the pro bono teams, our staff developed a different skill set that they didn’t have before, functional areas that they didn’t have and made them even more effective in their jobs. We built up our own longer term capacity to sustain the organization.
What was most challenging, in your role, about leveraging or participating in a Pro Bono program?
We could have done a better job investing time in the project at the beginning. We would have spent more time upfront planning, scoping, and ensuring we were available to answer the team’s questions. We also would make sure we were looking not just 3 or 6 months ahead, but 2 or 3 years ahead.
If someone was in your shoes, looking to get started with skills-based volunteering for the first time, what advice would you give or tool would you point them to?
It’s so important to understand the time that is involved and the effort needed to manage a team. It requires an honest assessment with the board and the staff to figure out why you are seeking this help, why it is important, how big of a priority is it for the organization, and if it is an immediate need.
If Pro Bono were a celebrity, who would it be and why?
Kevin Durant, NBA superstar on the Oklahoma City Thunder, because he takes his fame and channels it to benefit the people in his community that need it most through his charitable foundation. And he teaches kids basketball – now that’s a skills-based volunteer experience I would have fun with!