By Angela Penny
July 15, 2012
A federal program inspired by John F. Kennedy and initiated by George W. Bush is thriving under the Obama administration.
A Billion Plus Change is a national campaign launched in 2008 with the ambitious goal of raising billions of dollars in pro bono, skills-based pledges from businesses, resource commitments benefiting nonprofits across the country and around the world. During a forum held at the White House in June, officials announced as much $1.8 billion has been pledged to date from 200 businesses.
“Pro bono puts the wind in the sails of nonprofits,” said National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling. In tough economic times, demand for nonprofit-based services increases while resources to fund them decreases, Sperling said.
To address the problem, Aaron Hurst, founder and president of Taproot Foundation, lobbied then-President Bush to challenge the business community to provide pro bono services to nonprofits. The result was the launch of the Billion Plus campaign by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that also runs AmeriCorps.
Hurst said he was inspired by then-President John F. Kennedy, who urged lawyers to use their skills, pro bono, to help win the struggle for civil rights. The result: law centers opened in the South in the early 1960s, staffed by top lawyers from top law firms.
“The need was just too great for Taproot to handle it alone,” Hurst said. “That’s why I lobbied the president. Senator Warner really gets the issue and is doing a fantastic job. I’m beyond pleased with the outcome.”
Hurst founded Taproot Foundation in 2001 in San Francisco.
Taproot provides service grants to nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington D.C., according to its website. Teams of business professionals use their skills to help nonprofits with marketing, branding, technology and financial services.
The foundation created a video case study of a project led by Wells Fargo to improve public relations strategies for a coalition of nonprofits and the San Francisco Unified School District.
The campaign hopes to receive pledges from as many as 500 businesses by 2013.