Getting Started With a Pro Bono Coaching Project

This post has been adapted from an original article written by Cristina Custodio – an ICF Foundation Ambassador – on the ICF Foundation website.

Pandemics, climate change, refugee crises – doesn’t it seem like the world needs coaching more than ever?  This is a great time to start coaching for social impact. As an ICF Foundation Council of Ambassador, I work to support ICF Chapters and Members with engaging in coaching for social impact. Are you wondering how you can start an initiative or project in your community? 

 Here are some responses to the most frequently asked questions and on how to start.

What is Coaching for Social Impact?

Coaching for social impact means to amplify and accelerate systemic change in the world through coaching.  We do this by coaching people in organizations working to make the world a better place.  Through our coaching, we can help these social impact organizations improve their effectiveness. 

What are Social Impact Organizations?

Social impact organizations are known by different terms throughout the planet.   Here are some examples: 

  • Non-profit organizations 
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) 
  • Philanthropic organizations 
  • Foundations 
  • Social enterprises  
  • B-Corporations 
  • Civil society organizations 
  • Associations 

What are they usually called in your area? 

The social impact sector is growing around the world.  According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society, 7.4% of people worldwide work in this sector.  The UN estimates that there are 970 million people around the globe serving as volunteers for social impact organizations.   

Think about it:  there are over 1 billion people on this planet working in very tough conditions to make this a better place for everyone.  They ABSOLUTELY need coaches!  

How could Coaching for Social Impact be the most helpful? 

Social impact leaders face many challenges.  In my decade of coaching social impact leaders throughout North, Central and South America, these are some of the more common topics: 

  • Burnout 
  • Loneliness and isolation 
  • Leadership challenges 
  • Complex social issues 
  • Work-life balance 
  • Scarcity 
  • Constant collaboration 
  • Stakeholder management 
  • Board of Directors 
  • Administrative and financial structures 
  • Communication and marketing 
  • Data and case for support 

According to the Coaching and Philanthropy Project, coaching for social impact could be most powerful when a leader or organization is at an inflection point.  Coaching can transform moments of great turmoil into opportunity.   

For many, the pandemic has created such an inflection point.  Over 66% of US non-profits reported that COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their organization.  We see a similar scenario throughout the globe. 

Clearly, this is the moment to do coaching for social impact. 

You want to do Coaching for Social Impact … Now What? 

The International Coaching Federation and its Foundation (ICF Foundation) offer you great opportunities to start coaching for social impact.   

Are you a coach still pursuing your ICF credentials?  You could coach through existing pro-bono social impact coaching projects, which are usually run by local ICF chapters. Or you could create your own coaching for social impact project, using the ICF Foundation’s Coaching for Social Impact toolkit.  Starting a pro-bono social impact coaching project can be an amazing opportunity for student coaches to collaborate with their peers, gain experience and increase their coaching hours.  

Are you an ICF credentialed coach?  Then, the ICF Foundation’s Ignite Initiative is for you.  Ignite, started in 2017, is a call for individual credentialed coaches to work as a team to provide pro bono coaching to a partner organization whose mission is aligned with a United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goal.  The Ignite Initiative has specific parameters in place to promote best practices and allow coaches to focus on achieving the greatest impact.  You could coach through existing Ignite projects, which are usually run by local ICF chapters. Or you could create your own Ignite project, using the ICF Foundation’s Ignite Toolkit.  Starting your own project can be a wonderful way to involve your coach friends and associates in creating social impact.  

Here are some steps you can take today: 

  1. Connect with your ICF Chapter’s social impact committee – many chapters already have teams dedicated to coaching for social impact.  These may be known by different names, such as: Volunteering, Social Responsibility, Charity Coaching, Social Impact, etc.  Reach out to your local chapter through its website or social media and ask for its social impact committee’s contact information.   
  2. Enroll in your chapter’s social impact coaching and Ignite projects – The people in your ICF chapter’s social impact committee will probably be able to tell you whether the chapter has a coaching for social impact project you could join.  Enrolling in an existing project may be the fastest way to gain experience in coaching for social impact. 
  3. Sign up for ICF Foundation updates – the ICF Foundation regularly shares information on coaching for social impact initiatives around the world.  So, sign up to remain up to date on the latest updates. 
  4. Sign up for future ICF Foundation volunteer opportunities – The ICF Foundation keeps a database of coaches interested in future volunteer opportunities. 
  5. Sign up for ICF Foundation Ignite Basecamp – If you are a credentialed coach interested in creating or joining an Ignite project, you may want to join the project management site connecting all Ignite project leaders around the world.  This way, you may be able to gain inspiration or enroll in an Ignite project outside your geographical area. 
  6. Consider starting your own coaching for social impact or Ignite project – The ICF Foundation has created an easy-to-follow coaching for social impact or Ignite roadmap and toolkit for you to be able to start your own passion project, whether alone or with a group of coaching friends. Go for it!  

Need Help Getting Started? 

The ICF Foundation Council of Ambassadors can support you in starting an initiative in your community by emailing [email protected]. Join the ICF Foundation at our workshop (October 26) and sessions (October 27) on this topic at ICF Converge 2021.  Feel free to reach out!  And remember:  the world needs you and your gifts!                   

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