Pro bono is shortened from Latin “pro bono publico”, meaning “for the benefit of the public”.
The term Pro Bono implies to providing professional services to civil society organizations or citizens for free or for a symbolic charge, in other words – for public benefit.
Pro bono provider could be an individual volunteer, or an organization that is willing to provide the skills and expertise of its employees pro bono in order to assist those that need such services but are unable to afford it.
Beneficiaries of Pro bono services are non-for-profit organizations working for the public good, such as civil society organizations or social enterprises that work with specific vulnerable groups, on public relevant issues, or, in some cases, beneficiaries can be individuals with the need of professional assistance but no means to afford it.
Often times, civil society organizations that are working to assist various groups of the public and/or tackle social, economic or environmental problems, lack the sufficient means to get highly qualified expert services. However, without access to such services it is hard for these organizations to accomplish their objectives and make a considerable impact on such relevant issues for the public, as ecology, education, healthcare, etc.
Pro Bono services make expertise and intellectual resources of the private sector accessible to organizations working to benefit the public. By doing Pro bono, companies assist those groups of the public whose interests a civil society organization represents and serves.
Corporate Pro Bono programs are a part of the companies’ CSR strategy; Pro Bono services manifest the social dimension of CSR: in case of Pro Bono, the company is investing its human resources - time, knowledge and skills of its employees – into the needs of local communities and for their development.
The company might allow its employees to use their paid work time for such voluntary activity. At the same time, it might also facilitate and coordinate such voluntary activities of its employees.
Pro bono programs are well fitting into and compliment the company’s other socially responsible programs, such as provision of monetary or in-kind assistance to the communities and non-profit organizations. Thus, by combining different approaches, accomplishment of much more important social goals becomes possible.
Corporate Social Investment
A well-planned Pro bono program is a less costly initiative with a considerably high impact, bringing many benefits to the company and the society.
In many cases, social impacts of Pro bono services are much more important than those of financial donations. Knowledge sharing and strengthening of beneficiary organizations lead to sustainable, large-scale and long-term results.
Pro bono services enable civil society organizations to get a qualified expert assistance which is not otherwise accessible to them, thus helping them become more effective and better serve a wider circle of their numerous beneficiaries. It leads to achieving sustainable and large-scale outcomes and to increasing social impacts of the assistance provided by the company.
Beside benefiting the public, Pro Bono programs also bring many benefits to the companies implementing them. In particular, providing Pro Bono services:
Positions the company on the labor market as a desirable employer for socially motivated professionals and gives it a possibility to attract the best professionals
of HR managers think that Pro bono programs complement the employees’ training and learning programs
of employed Americans think that professional voluntary programs in general improve professional skills, communication and client relations skills, and help develop leadership skills.
Graduates of the world’s leading business schools state they are ready to give up on 14% of their salary if they work for a socially responsible company.
Two thirds of American millennials state that they prefer to work for an organization that will give them a possibility to help civil society organizations with their professional skills
More than a half of professionals around the world declare that they prefer to work for a company where employees help civil society organizations with their expertise.
According to 80% of surveyed managers, Pro bono voluntary programs help the companies to attract new professionals
of US millennials state they would not be willing to work for a company without clearly expressed social and environmental priorities.
of the surveyed respondents declare that companies with volunteering programs in place have a better work climate and environment.
According to 70% of those employed respondents, they are happy when working for a company with a Pro bono program.
of the employed respondents say that the company’s voluntary programs are especially important for the wellbeing of its employees.
According to 88%, they are much happier with their work and feel much more accomplished when the employer gives them a chance to contribute to solving social problems.
The areas/issues where companies offer their Pro Bono expertise to beneficiary organizations are quite diverse. This could be any topic for which the beneficiary organization might need expert assistance from professionals of the provider companies. The most common topics of providing Pro Bono services are:
The models / formats of Pro bono services are also quite diverse, with different duration of service provision. Sometimes, Pro bono programs can be just a several hour-long consultation or a daylong event, while in other times, it could be a several months long project. The most common models are:
Pro bono services were practices even in the 20th century by law offices: qualified lawyers were providing free (Pro bono) legal services to poor people that were unable to afford lawyer charges.
Since 1970s, this approach was actively adopted and practiced by organizations from various other fields.
In the modern world, Pro Bono services are a rapidly increasing trend.
The most important professional resources for Pro Bono programs are service provider organizations, however, representatives of other sectors also actively include Pro Bono in their CSR programs.
In addition, a so called “Pro Bono mediator” organizations start emerging. These are organizations supporting the spread of Pro Bono practices around the world and connecting Pro Bono provider and beneficiary organizations.
Each year, several regional or global events dedicated to Pro Bono are held. There are also numerous publications and resources on the matter. For more information, please visit.
Created in 2013, Global Pro Bono Network currently unites 52 “Pro bono mediator” organizations from 34 countries, and the number is constantly increasing. The Network supports holding Pro Bono conferences and establishing Pro Bono practices globally, organizes annual global Pro Bono summits and Pro Bono weeks, carries out research, and supports international Pro Bono projects.
PILnet is a global Pro bono organization in legal matters.
Pro Bono services have been actively developing in Georgia over the last 5-7 years. Georgian Pro Bono Network and Georgian Pro Bono Mediation Initiative started their operations in 2016.
Development of Pro Bono services in legal sector is supported by the Georgian Bar Association.