Posts tagged probono
verynice + Google: A Collaboration for One Billion Acts of Peace
Image via   Niharb  .

Image via Niharb.

At verynice, we’re on a mission to inspire and support companies in incorporating pro bono into their business models. We aim to spread awareness of the benefits that pro bono can provide to both the practitioner and the recipient as well as the impact it can have on communities, both local and global. About one year ago, we had the opportunity to work with a client who could demonstrate the affects of pro bono on a major scale: Google— in a project that is currently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. 

Google had partnered with a nonprofit called PeaceJam for their initiative, Billion Acts, to provide pro bono support. Led by Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, Billion Acts aims to inspire individuals across the world to perform acts of peace in 10 key focus areas, which include protecting the environment, advancing women, and alleviating poverty. Google’s role was to build a brand and digital platform that would allow Billion Acts to become a global movement.

So, where does verynice enter the picture? Google asked our Founder, Matt, to join their Billion Acts team to lead brand strategy and serve as an advisor for usability testing, marketing, and product development for the Billion Acts platform. While Google brings all the expertise, efficiency, and staffing of a global technology giant, verynice brings something different to the table: a wealth of experience creating effective brand and product strategies for non-profit organizations, and leadership in the management of pro bono client relationships.  

Instead of recapping this collaboration ourselves, we thought it would be more interesting to hear it from Google’s perspective. We chatted with Aldis Ozolins and Jay Castro of the Google Billion Acts team to find out how our knowledge of the nonprofit space and experience with pro bono engagements benefited this incredible project. 

Hi Aldis! Hi Jay!

How has the Give-Half model inspired your work with Billion Acts and at Google in general?
A: I’ve had the pleasure of working with Matthew Manos on several occasions before and the give-half model was something that inspired me to seek out projects that held a deeper purpose.  Working at Google has allowed me to be part of a community of creatives who share this strive to (as cliché as it sounds) make the world a better place through technology. And when I discovered the Billion Acts initiative, I saw it as the perfect space to bring verynice in and execute the spirit of give-half at the scale that only Google can provide.

J: I was raised in a big family— a big, tribal family— so my brother and I are great examples of “it takes a village to raise a child.” Because of that, it's in my core to care and give back to my community. The Give Half model has inspired me to do exactly that: give half. Before reading the book and working with verynice, I gave what I could, when I could, and where I could. Since implementing the Give Half model, I've found that my time and skills are more valuable to my pro bono work, and I've seen significant, positive increases in my personal capacity and time management. The Give Half model was the "proof in the pudding" to what I've always wanted to do, and created a simple framework for me to follow. 

How did verynice's insight into brand strategy help inform and push forward your work with Billion Acts?
A: Verynice was integral in leveraging their expertise in this space to provide additional perspective on the nonprofit world. Their trend analysis helped give us a clearer picture of the current landscape. As a result we were able to uniquely position the Billion Acts rebrand. 

J: First and foremost, verynice knows the nonprofit world from many different perspectives; this knowledge has helped shape our interactions with PeaceJam, and the many nonprofits we engage with. Additionally, verynice has implemented a user focused research and feedback loop to our development process that's helped to quickly gain and implement validated findings. 

What was one of the biggest takeaways from our collaborative usability testing work?
A: Having design decisions proven wrong through usability tests is how you know you are doing your job. The tests really shed light on what parts of the app were working, what parts weren’t, as well as what was missing from the app. These tests really help us build empathy for the user and see our concept through unfiltered eyes.

J: The biggest and more important take away from the collaborative usability testing is that no matter how right or how amazing I might think one design or feature may be, the usability testing can (and usually does) prove me wrong. I've learned functionality is more important than features and there's no better feedback than the reaction from our users. 

Can you talk a little bit about your engagement with verynice and how this work in general may have informed or even changed your perspective on pro bono?
A: I’ve always had the desire to work on projects that give back. But it wasn’t until I met Matthew and began collaborating with verynice that I discovered pro bono work doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive from what I do for a living. I think the piece of inspiration that has always stood out to me is not thinking of pro bono work as a side quest or temporarily fulfilling distraction but rather something that anchors everything I do professionally. In the sense that it is not about the individual projects but embracing a new philosophy of life, one that says, “I want to put others first and I want my work to reflect that whether or not it is pro bono.” That is a world-changing ideal.  

J: Previously, most of my pro bono work (in the tech industry) has been very high level and strategic. Engaging with Matthew and the verynice team on high level strategies as well as the fine details of a design has inspired me to "roll up my sleeves and get dirty" every once in awhile. It's healthy and inspiring. Furthermore, this engagement has literally inspired me to roll my sleeves up and get dirty with local organizations in my community, away from a WiFi connection, with my phone on airplane mode. Through this experience, I've learned that, with proper time and capacity management, I can give back to my community via technology in the cloud and shovels in the ground. 

What is the relationship between pro bono and professional development? What opportunities for growth do pro bono engagements open up? 
A: To me, one of the fascinating things about creative work is the inverse relationship between creativity and money. As a project gets bigger with more of a financial burden attached to it and more relationships to manage, the creativity generally seems to suffer. On the other hand working on a pro bono basis means that not only are you working with smaller budgets, you are also working with people that have a passion for the project. I’ve found that this tends to lead to a more creative output. So as it turns out, pro bono work is not only good for your soul it’s also good for your creative development. 

J: The relationship between pro bono and professional development reminds me of my days as a rugby player. Rugby doesn't come naturally to many Americans; it's a sport that requires time on the training pitch, learning the fundamentals of the sport. In 13 years of playing rugby, I've come across very few great rugby players that did not require training to get to their level of play. In many cases, with training, any athlete can become a great rugby player. 

The same circumstance can be applied to pro bono work and professional development. For instance, becoming a product manager at Google, or any tech company these days, requires years of on the job experience. So how does an aspiring product manager succeed if their dream job requires years of experience? This is where pro bono work comes into play: as in rugby, pro bono work can be an extremely valuable training pitch for one to learn new skills, develop relationships, and gain the practical experience that is attractive to future employers. 

Pro bono experiences and professional development can be very similar to internships. In my case, pro bono has opened up a new network of do-gooders and taught me new skills in product development, user research, and team management. The skills I've learned in my pro bono work are not required in my current role at Google, but are skills that I find extremely valuable in my professional development. All in all, I'm extremely thankful and fortunate for my training pitch. =]

Thank you, both! 

verynice hopes to continue to form meaningful collaborations with excellent companies to support a deeper commitment to pro bono. Check out more of our pro bono work for nonprofit clients, here

A Brand to Build a Network

When it comes to getting funded, nonprofits must overcome a few more hurdles than for-profits, especially when it comes to reaching potential donors.  For-profit companies trying to bring in new customers work hard to leave an impression on their desired audience. Put simply, when they present a strong and consistent view of their brand to the right people, they see success.

While nonprofits can effectively acquire new donors in the same way, they often have fewer means to do so. Without the budget or staffing to create a robust brand, they loose valuable opportunities to reach an audience that cares about the work they’re doing. This affects their ability to retain donors, and therefore to set long-term goals for growth.

When our client, <dev>tech academy, approached verynice with this same issue, we knew we wanted to help. <dev>tech is a nonprofit that provides a comprehensive web development program, job training, and personal finance skills to disadvantaged youth. We were immediately impressed by their ability to create social change by matching two major issues— the tech skills gap and the lack of opportunity faced by youth who cannot afford a college education. In order to help <dev>tech build a support network, we just needed to help them communicate the power of their model to the world. How? By giving them a strong brand strategy and visual identity. 

Instead of taking you through this process ourselves, we asked <dev>tech Co-Founder, Stacy McCoy, to talk about <dev>tech, their work with verynyice, and what she sees for the organization’s future. 

Hi, Stacy! Can you tell us about who <dev>tech serves?
500%.  That’s how much the cost of college has risen since 1985.  Student loan debt is over $1 trillion and is second only to mortgage debt.  It’s not an affordable option for everyone anymore.  Unfortunately, there aren’t many alternatives.  Those without higher education will make on-average less than $30,000 a year and struggle to find a job because unemployment rates are much higher for those without a college degree.  

At the same time, there’s a tech talent shortage. estimates that by 2020 there will be 1,000,000 more jobs than students.  And it’s much harder for companies in smaller tech hubs to recruit and retain talent.  <dev>tech academy bridges this gap by helping youth that can’t afford to go to college gain the skills necessary to get a job as a junior developer at a local tech company.  Youth get access to higher paying jobs and a stable career, tech companies get the talent they need to grow and scale, and the surrounding communities experience greater economic development due to the additional money flowing into the local economy.  It’s a win-win-win! 

Are there any differences between the traditional “dev bootcamps” we’re becoming familiar with and <dev>tech’s model?
<dev>tech academy takes the standard for-profit web development bootcamp model, bumps it out to 6 months, and adds a long-term apprenticeship.  This was a novel idea when the model was designed a couple of years ago.  But now these types of models are starting to be tested in a couple of big cities around the country.  But we take it a step further.  On top of providing mentorship and career services, we also provide financial literacy support from opening bank accounts to teaching how to manage money and save.  I would also like to think the curriculum we’ve developed is one of the best.  Finally, we have plans for creating a model that works for rural areas and monetizing the model so that it’s self-sustainable.  But it’s too early to share the details of those. Stay tuned!

Even though the <dev>tech model seems incredibly robust and relevant, were you facing any barriers to getting off the ground?
Though the idea behind <dev>tech academy was formed a couple of years ago when I was living in Los Angeles, I held off on launching it because I knew I would be moving soon.  When my husband and I moved to Durham late last April, I hit the ground running.  Finding advisors and community support was easy.  The pieces of the puzzle quickly fell into place as one after another people offered to help.  Durham is such an amazing city!  But there was one big piece missing: funding.  The cornerstone of the program is a bootcamp, which requires a skilled teacher to be competitive.  Skilled web development instructors are expensive!  It’s a big ask.  My first venture Give To Get Jobs – which is organized as a for-profit LLC – was self-funded.  Fundraising, especially non-profit fundraising, is completely new to me. And pilot programs are the hardest to fund.   It’s been difficult going from moving so fast to needing to slow down in order to find the right donor(s). 

Now that you have a visual identity, how has that removed some of the barriers you’ve been facing?
Revamping <dev>tech academy’s visual identity was huge for us.  It makes us look a lot more professional, which is important when you’re asking for large sums of money.  It also helped guide a website redesign and will inform all graphic design styles moving forward.  And I’m a lot more confident that we’ll be able to effectively reach our target market with this new identity. 

How about the brand strategy piece? Did that open up new opportunities for <dev>tech as well?The new brand strategy is helpful beyond words.  Working towards that strategy pushed us to dig deep and determine what’s behind the <dev>tech academy brand.  Our brand and brand story is a lot clearer now enabling us to tell the story in a much more effective way.  

Sounds like <dev>tech is headed toward a bright future! How are you visualizing your next steps?The biggest goal is to get the money to pay an instructor.  Once that happens, we can have the program up and running in less than a month and a half.  Everything else is ready to go.  Once we launch the pilot program, the next big step will be to run a successful program.  When we have proof of concept, we’ll be scaling the program rapidly.   And then the adventure will really begin!  It’s a big undertaking, but I can’t wait.  And I can’t thank verynice enough for helping <dev>tech academy as we set out to develop communities by developing tech talent. 

Thank you, Stacy! 

If you haven't taken a closer look at <dev>tech academy yet, check them out here. We couldn't be more excited to see what they achieve next! 

Pro Bono Futurum

Pro bono publico, for the public good, has a long and noble history. The term (and practice) is usually associated with those working in law. But the idea of doing “good” in the business world is growing beyond the legal profession, and is being picked up by a host of product and service providers. A comprehensive overview of these pro-social business design innovations can be found in verynice’s Models of Impact map.

 “The world is getting better and better, and worse and worse, faster and faster.”
— Tom Atlee

 Tom Atlee’s observation beautifully captures the contradictions, paradoxes, opportunities, and anxieties of change in our times. If you want to find hope for the future, it is easily found. If you dread the looming disaster and civilization-level catastrophes we are facing, they are there, all around us. When we live with such ambiguity, it can confound and paralyze us, or it can challenge and liberate us. Therefore, how we frame the future matters more than ever. The metaphors, references, language, images, and visions we use to make sense of change have real, present, tangible effects on the way we think, how we behave, and the decisions we make.

 Pro bono is a way to both describe a practice and an ethos. It is a big idea. It has enough clarity to be understood broadly, but it is capacious enough to include many variations of how “good” can be done. It has the gravitas (and timelessness?) of Latin! Ultimately pro bono is about giving— of time, services, and other resources— with the manifest goal of improving society in some direct way. It can be more or less formalized, and it can scale from the level of individuals (such as legal representation) to far-reaching  social impact (such as volunteer programs like the Peace Corps).

Relatively recent innovations, such as social entrepreneurship, impact investing, sharing economy, collaborative consumption, and strategic reciprocity are all part of an emerging ‘web of good’ that is attempting to harness business, social, and technological tools to win the race against the forces of greed, corruption, and co-optation. We see good growing faster and faster, but so is desperation and precarity.

 The idea of racing against the devil already leaves me exhausted. The idea of pro bono, however, is built upon values of duty, to be sure, but it also contains notions of abundance, and exuberance. Pro bono can have strategic advantages, but the driving force is the goal for individuals to do right by society by becoming better people. Being “human” in today’s business world remains difficult, but it doesn’t stop people from seeking out ways to do just that. Pro bono feels like a very human act of giving a damn, and doing something about it. Becoming better people may or may not lead directly to better futures, but I’ll take my chances.

 Pro bono futurum is the idea that if we give our time and skills away (at whatever level or capacity we can) to institutions and practices that improve society, that those institutions will thrive and that future generations will benefit from these efforts. Pro bono isn’t free, and it requires more work and sacrifice from practitioners of it. The feedback mechanisms may be noisy, long, or even non-existent for us in the present, but we have to put some measure of trust that our actions will have systemic positive impact.  A commitment to pro bono futurum could very likely pay off for most current and future generations, but one thing has been made certain in my year of giving half of my work away for free: it has definitely paid off for my own personal well-being and work satisfaction. With a side effect like that, pro bono is a medicine we should all be taking.

Second Shift is verynice

Happy pro bono week, everyone! Today, we'd like to celebrate by highlighting Second Shift, a fellow #givehalf company! Second Shift creates campaigns and initiatives through collaborative branding, content creation, digital media, and growth strategy. They are committed to supporting small business growth, "disrupting the status quo and rewriting the rules of ‘business as usual.'"

Not only were we so excited to hear about Second Shift's 50% pro bono commitment, we're also pumped about the great work they're doing. That's why we chatted with Founder, Samantha Cole, to hear more about Second Shift's philosophy and how their #givehalf initiative is going so far… 

Hi, Samantha!

Second Shift is doing some awesome work in the design and small business world! Can you tell us about your "human first" philosophy?
Our messaging, whether it be design, social media engagement, or new content, simply won't work if it does not connect and shift the human on the other end. It is so easy for people to become disconnected in this overly connected world. We forget there is a pulse on the other side of the screen. 

So, what's up with your whole "breaking the status quo" thing?
Status quo means going along with the popular way of doing something. It is living from a place of "good enough". In advertising, status quo can mean greed, capitalism, and the desire for wealth. We are in a constant state of wanting more of everything, getting bigger dollar clients, and increasing the bottom line. 

Second Shift is disrupting the status quo in the creative agency space by committing to transparency, providing project based campaigns and projects (instead of retainers), and maintaining a 50% pro bono workload. We are giving "Second Shifter's" a vetted space to find solid projects to work on to help increase their income and practice their trade. We are giving volunteers and interns a place to contribute to great causes while building their portfolio. We are assisting our paying clients in their own #givehalf, which is great for everyone!  

We believe that organic growth marketing and storytelling is how great businesses are built and loyal customers are retained. We believe in partnerships and collaborations. Our goal is not to work with everyone who needs what we have, but with those who believe what we believe.  These standards are not currently the status quo in advertising. But joining forces with organizations and causes such as and B Corp are all steps in the right direction. 

We were thrilled to hear you're using the #givehalf model! Why Give Half? 
Like verynice, we believe that nonprofits should be spending their resources on the important stuff with hard costs— not getting people to pay attention to their cause. We want to help these compassionate organizations with their movements, meanwhile providing real world experience for interns and volunteers who want to practice their trade and build their portfolios.

How has using the #givehalf model impacted your business? 
We're still new. So far, the impact of our #givehalf has been about the story. And I think shock. I don't think that people will believe that we are going to pull this off. Our hope is that businesses who are already needing the types of services we offer will want to work with us, choosing to support the bigger picture of our impact. 


We're so inspired by #givehalf companies like Second Shift. See what the movement is all about and download your copy of Give Half 2.0 here



Renaegivehalf, secondshift, probono
Give Half 2.0 Now Available for Digital Download

"At verynice, pro-bono work isn’t something that employees do off the clock, with or without incentives."
– Ryan Scott, Forbes Magazine

September 7, 2013 marks the beginning of a movement: “How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free” was officially released, attracting over 5,000 readers globally. Since then, thousands of service providers in over 1,500 cities have leveraged components of our model to contribute to the greater pro-bono marketplace for nonprofits. We are proud to say that there are now dozens of #givehalf companies around the world!

Since it’s beginning, the #givehalf movement has grown significantly— enough for verynice Founder, Matthew Manos, to release a second edition of the book. This brings us to our big announcement… The Second Edition of "How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free" has been released online! Click here to download your copy now! As you may have guessed… “purchase” of the book is donation based.

A quick refresher: "How to Give Half of Your Work Away For Free" aims to open-source our Give Half business model invented by verynice Founder, Matthew Manos. Give Half 2.0 will act as a toolkit that is broken into four primary sections (definitions, FAQs, worksheets, and essays), each representing the inner-working of our model from different perspectives.

Matt is currently touring the book! If you’re in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, or Phoenix— he’ll be coming to your city shortly to spread the message of Give Half 2.0!

Digital downloads of Give Half 2.0 are available exclusively at this online location starting TODAY! Look out for the full online edition launching in the coming week and our printed edition arriving late 2014/early 2015. We’ll keep you in the loop! 

Renaeverynice, givehalf, probono, socent
Be verynice with Ashoka's Catapult

As you’ve probably guessed, civic innovation is one of our favorite topics at verynice. We’re all about empowering ourselves and others to activate social change— both locally and globally. That’s why we couldn’t have been more excited to get involved with Ashoka and their awesome Catapult program.

Ashoka is the largest global network of social entrepreneurs and platform for those looking to change the world. Their Youth Venture, a network of young social entrepreneurs across the world, aims to support a generation of youth in developing the leadership skills they need to activate positive social change in their communities— now and throughout their careers. This program exists in 23 countries and has invested in and supported over 250,000 young people in their social ventures.

Last year, Ashoka launched their Catapult program, which condenses the support and mentorship from their Youth Venture into an intensive, four-month startup incubator. It provides participants with an immersive experience during which they must build, pitch, fund, and launch a venture. Their support comes from three weekend sessions on college campuses around the US and weekly virtual meetings with their team’s corporate and MBA advisors. Last year’s inaugural program helped 33 youth from around the world to develop and scale 8 enterprises, generating over $100K to date.  

Sounds like our cup of tea, right? Exactly right: verynice will be at three of the four campuses on next month’s launch dates to mentor student groups in building a brand for their startup. That includes the Stanford University, Harvard University, and University of Pennsylvania. We’re looking for volunteers in SF, Boston, and PA who will participate in leading a one-day brand workshop for Ashoka’s Catapult students.

If you're interested in joining our volunteer team for Ashoka's Catapult launch, here's what we're looking for and what you can expect:

What to expect:

  • You will facilitate an in-person branding workshop in each host university where Ashoka’s Catapult will take place. That means, you’ll need to physically be present at: Standford, Harvard, or the University of Pennsylvania.
  • We are recruiting 6 volunteers in each state.
  • verynice will provide a workshop curriculum you can use as a guide.

We are looking for:

  • Design rockstars who are awesome at branding, logo/identity systems, and brand story telling.
  • Someone with a strong graphic design background who wants to inspire young entrepreneurs support them in building a brand for their new startup.
  • Product/business development knowledge is a plus.


Please send your resume and 3 relevant portfolio pieces to


Code for America is verynice.

Code for America is a nonprofit that develops technology-focused solutions to help government and citizens work together. By leveraging technology, Code for America is able to facilitate government cooperation and empower residents to actively solve problems within their communities.

Code for America logo

Code for America logo

The Code for America Accelerator is a four-month program that provides technology startups with training, mentorship, and access to their vast government network and technology landscape. To participate, the startups must pass Code for America’s very selective application process. Out of more than a hundred, only five make the cut.

For the past two years, verynice has been a mentor with the Accelerator program. This means that Code for America assigns us between two and three startups per year to provide mentorship around brand strategy.

Cool text image via

Cool text image via

This year, we are so excited to have been assigned to two fantastic startups:

Trailhead Labs collaborates with outdoor groups and local government in order to connect people with the outdoors.

MuniRrent allows municipalities to rent needed equipment from one another through the MuniRent application, saving them (and therefore their citizens) the high cost of traditional rental services.

Last year, we had the opportunity to work with SmartProcure, StreetCred, and Family Assessment Form:

Smartprocure collects data from thousands of local, state and federal agencies in order to improve procurement knowledge, allowing companies to make better purchasing decisions.

Through a program that aggregates information from the court and a variety of law enforcement agencies, StreetCred helps law enforcement agencies find and remove fugitives from the community, keeping their officers safer in the process.

Designed by social workers and home visitors, Family Assessment Form is a practice tool that helps family support practitioners standardize the assessment of their services so that supported families can receive the most effective services possible.


We'll keep you updated on our work with Code for America. If you haven't seen their TED talk, you'll want to watch that here— trust us, you'll walk away feeling empowered.