Managing a Pro Bono Project

After an initial meeting, the volunteer should draw up a project proposal, using the specimen project proposal form, adapted as necessary; and agree this with the client. The clearer and more explicit the obligations of everyone involved are the better. So try to make sure that the agreement covers the essentials. It should include:

  • what the organisation are expected to do and what the volunteer and any other parties are expected to do
  • within what time periods
  • a description of the problem and the boundaries or limits of the volunteer’s involvement
  • the goals or aims of the intervention
  • how the problem will be tackled, the kind of data that will be needed, the data collection methods that will be used
  • how progress will be reviewed and how the intervention can be evaluated
  • how the project will be quality assured (for projects where any analysis/report/recommendations are made).
  • the nature of the final report or other outcome
  • follow-up activities that may be required
  • how and when feedback will be given to the volunteer after the intervention

Quality Assurance

Pro Bono OR recommends using the quality assurance tools and guidance provided on GOV.UK when quality assessing any work. 

Post-project feedback and publicity

In order to publicise the work carried out on behalf of The OR Society and help to fulfil The OR Society’s charitable aims, both the organisation and volunteer should complete feedback forms at the end of the project and return these to the Pro Bono OR project manager at The OR Society.

Some practical pointers for success

The table below outlines success factors that you need to get right in order for a project to be successful and also key issues for Pro Bono volunteers related to those factors.

Table: Success factors and pro bono issues (Ruth Kaufman Sept 2014)

Success Factors Issues for Pro Bono

Appearing to be professional and confident


Understanding and clarifying risks


Being able to think on your feet


Good listening to client (including probing for underlying issues)


Client engagement


Consultant has done their prior research

This should include sector understanding

Good communication and trust

Need to use appropriate language (see ‘prior research’)

Not scaring client off

Bear in mind possible relative inexperience

Identifying key stakeholders

Bear in mind particular structure of sector, including respective roles of volunteers, trustees and paid staff

Suitable client expectations, well-managed

Bear in mind possible relative inexperience

Clients (and the right people at the client) have time to give information

Understand clients’ time constraints (especially an issue for trustees, or for small delivery-focused charities)

At some point before it is too late, there is an agreed product/ToR/timing/scope/report/plan

a) Greater flexibility may be necessary because of clients’ relative inexperience

b) Danger of project drift as a result of client inexperience and consultant emotional involvement

c) Commitment to timings should be as rigorous as paid external consultant; don’t think, or allow client to think, that because it is unpaid, standards can be lowered mid-project

Having empathy (i) with organisations objectives, (ii) with organisation’s way of working

a) Need client to believe in your empathy

b) but mustn’t allow it to override your professional judgement and

c) must be willing to challenge

Technically competent consultant (includes ability to put self in client’s shoes)

a) Emotional or social drive to do something for the charity may override professional judgement on own competence;

b) Need to be willing to pull out if necessary, but also need to consider what would be most helpful for the charity, and adapt practice to meet their needs;

c) Need to be willing to agree different product if necessary