Volunteers Doing Double Duty, Survey Says
Friday, August 31, 2007
Architects’ hearts are overflowing with kindness—and Public Architecture has the documentation to prove it. A recent survey of 150 architect members of The 1%, a pro bono assistance network launched by the San Francisco–based design firm, found that participants go above and beyond the call of volunteer’s duty.
By signing up for The 1%, an architecture firm pledges 1 percent of its billable hours to designing for nonprofit groups free of charge. But based on the survey’s 77 complete responses, more than two-thirds of participants actually devoted 2 percent or more toward that goal last year. Public Architecture executive director John Cary notes that “the [survey] sample is representative of just about every firm size, type, and geography.” Respondents’ projects were equally sweeping, ranging from rebuilding a library in New Orleans to contributing to tsunami relief efforts in Sri Lanka.
Architects may have provided even more help than 2 percent—had they the means to do it. Although “social relevance” was a key criterion for selecting an assignment, “financial constraints” and “available staff time” were most frequently cited as limitations to shouldering additional pro bono work. Aaron Hurst, the founder and president of the pro bono advocacy Taproot Foundation—and the person who encouraged Public Architecture to undertake the survey—noted in a statement that the effort “represents the first time, outside of the legal profession, that a quantifiable standard for pro bono has been put on the table for a specific industry and measured. Most significantly, the survey brings to light the barriers to further investment as well as demonstrated commitment to overcoming them.”
Asked whether or not a survey of participants in The 1% accurately reflects the architecture profession as a whole, Cary admits that these respondents comprise a “self-selecting group.” But, he adds, “Our sincere hope is to improve the reliability of the data through a number of standard means in the years ahead, including a non-1% sample. Doing this kind of survey ‘right’ could cost about as much as it costs us to run the entire program, so we’re taking it one step at a time. Also, I firmly believe that the vast majority of firms of all shapes and sizes do a significant amount of pro bono work, but don’t do so in an organized, strategic, or trackable manner. We’re trying to change that.”
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