What’s Pro Bono for td? – A brief insight into our adventurous journey

At td, team projects that do not relate to a specific client but to the interests and passions of our team members are part of our day-today work. Every year these projects are pitched internally in order to gain the management’s as well as the team’s support, to ultimately be brought to life within 12 months.

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Doing volunteer work is part of the lives of some of us at td and integrating this perspective in td’s corporate culture is worth a team project.

Engaging in pro bono work is a noble goal. To define what “pro bono” could mean for td, what we could bring to the world of non-profits as the perfect marriage of their current and future needs and our skills, is the purpose and quest of our project.

The Beginning

17 passionate individuals from various professional backgrounds (data scientists, consultants, IT developers) and nations (Germany, China, Russia, India) came together full of inspiring visions about what pro bono work at td could look like. We, the pro bono team, carrying 17 different expectations with respect to the ultimate outcome were ready to stand up for our very own cause, excited to jump to solutions already taking shape in our minds.

The missing perspective: The “client”.

So, before changing the world with our enthusiasm, we had to take a step back and formulated a process to approach the project from a more customer centered perspective. Of course we used Design Thinking to our rescue (no brainer)!

From there, it was easy to define pillars/ potential next steps such as: What would we deliver (a tested prototype)? How would we deliver (milestones derived from classical design thinking process)? How would we communicate the progress (e.g. like this!)?

What started off as euphoric chaos soon turned into a structured and motivated quest:


Firstly: How can we empathize? How do we explore issues and problems NPOs (Non Profit Organizations) face in their daily work that might not be apparent at first glance, and relate to our skillset? We started reaching out to our prospective pro bono clients, working in NPO-related fields, to really wrap our minds around their needs.

As absolute newbies, we were introduced to the universe of Design Thinking by our experts Birte and Nadja. Channeling our new found knowledge into a semi-standardized interview guideline, we started dialing some numbers. “Hello?” -“It’s td!” Equipped with questions such as: “Could you elaborate on a typical day in your organization – what are great experiences, where do you see pitfalls?” we had to follow one simple rule: Ask “why” and “how” as often as possible.

Once the phone batteries died, we had to call it a day and wrap up our research phase, cluster our insights, and derive and doodle personas that we described according to their needs.

All of this talking, thinking and post it shuffling resulted in two overarching questions:

  1. How can we help NPOs find volunteers?
  2. How can we provide NPOs with practical digital knowledge?


After digesting the information overflow, we asked ourselves: What do we as td have to offer to meet those needs and answer those two questions? And which question should we focus on? We backed the insights generated in our first phone research step with desk research. Shared “Aha moments” from the interviews and filled in some gaps with insights: “(user from NPO x) needs a way to (verb) because (surprising insight)”.

This approach yielded many ideas. Matching them with our skills and company mission left us with three winners that needed further definition:

  • Digital Academy: Equipping NPOs with valuable resources and best practices working with digital data and handling digitalization and digital marketing for their own good cause.
  • The Hundert – Social Edition: Just Like founding a new startup, founding a non-profit organization is tough. How can we make sure that the efforts of these young organisations are seen by the community? The idea of a magazine similar to the Hundert emerged facilitating interviews with people working in NPOs to promote their organizations and hard work for a good cause, eventually leading them to more visibility and better conditions for fundraising, volunteers and general interest of media and people.
  • Quora for NPOs: We found out that NPOs at times hardly interact with one another or know about best practices. A platform where any questions – be it successful fundraising, installing user centered media channels, measuring success of projects – could be asked by NPOs and well-experienced NPOs would provide answers and approaches to a problem from their prior practice and thus initiate a fruitful exchange.


Time to get our heads in the game: Despite being so many superheroes, we knew we could not possibly work on all of these topics at the same time. Thus, we once more opened our ears to our potential customers, checking what it is that they need most. Yet, sometimes all the head scratching resolves itself as things naturally fall into place and show you which turn to take at a crossroads.

Our light bulb moment was when Susanne Klatten announced that she would donate up to 100 million Euros over the next five years under the condition of yielding a maximum effect. This is when it became apparent that this would change the market and require new skills from NPOs: To measure the outcome of their activities.

We decided to provide NPOs with these new superpowers and came up with the “Digital Academy” approach. The idea struck a chord and we received the opportunity to test it right away.

Prototype and Test

To bring the “Digital Academy” approach to life, we developed a workshop which we will conduct at the labtogether conference curated by Betterplace.org in Berlin. The conference theme ‘Effective Altruism’ led us to showcase how our methods of smart data analysis and digital data best practices could possibly be adopted for measuring impact of projects in the social sector. The participants of the workshop can be excited about learning about digital data sources, how to combine them for impact measurement and eventually apply them to their own cases in social context.

The conference will take place on November 17th and we’d be more than happy to meet you at our workshop!

Stay tuned, we will keep you posted on the results of our very first “Digital Academy” implementation and take you along on our journey’s next steps!

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