A Pro Bono Match Made in Heaven

Dispatch from San Francisco Hillel

Loren Maisels

Loren Maisels, a marketing and event planning professional for over 10 years, moved to the Bay Area three years ago from Toronto. Since arriving in San Francisco, she had been searching for meaningful ways to be involved with the Jewish community. After exploring various community events, she became connected with the Federation’s Pro Bono Consulting Practice and was thrilled at the potential to “give back, especially within the Jewish community.”

Through the Practice, Loren was introduced to Ollie Benn, the executive director of San Francisco Hillel, who was in need of just the kind of event planning expertise she could provide.

Ollie Benn

“Working in a nonprofit, there are never enough hours in a day,” Ollie said with a laugh. “There’s always more work to be doing. But there are also specific areas of expertise that we just don’t have.” Getting connected to pro bono experts through the Practice, Ollie added, has “a huge, multiplying effect in expanding our capacity.”

And this was especially true when it came to planning and executing a large event. Ollie and his team at San Francisco Hillel were in the process of figuring out how to put on a fundraising luncheon event to honor long-time board member Mimi Gauss. While they knew basically what they wanted to achieve through the event, Ollie said, they “had no idea what they were doing when it came to actually visualizing or putting together the format of the event.”

The Pro Bono Consulting Practice connected Ollie and the rest of the team at San Francisco Hillel with Loren several months before the event was to take place, and they immediately hit it off. The working relationship that developed was one of “great synergy,” said Loren.

Ollie was just as enthusiastic in reflecting on the partnership. “Loren gave us the comfort and confidence of an expert,” Ollie noted. “She knew what was realistic and what was possible, and she gave us the confidence to know that we weren’t missing or overlooking giant pieces by giving us a huge checklist right away, as well as making sure we didn’t do anything that we would regret later!”

The experience of “confidence and comfort” was one that Loren intentionally attempted to cultivate in her work with San Francisco Hillel. The project, she emphasized, “was Ollie’s project. My role was to be helpful. I didn’t want to take over, just wanted to provide him and the rest of his team with a sense of comfort. I took care of a lot of the details so Ollie and the rest of the team at San Francisco Hillel could really run with it.”

This process of “taking care of the details” included regular calls between Loren and Ollie for several months leading up to the event, creating a project plan that outlined the major actions and deadlines along the way, and using project management software to communicate and distribute tasks among the various players. Through this preparation, Loren was able to facilitate a smooth and effective period of planning, which ultimately resulted in the huge success of the event itself.

Even the day before the event was organized and efficient. Ollie remarked incredulously, “we were all set up by 5:00pm the day before!” And, although Loren was working a full-time job, she was committed to seeing the project through to the end. “I really wanted to be there on the day of the event so I could worry about the details and the flow and Ollie could just focus on the content.”

Which is exactly what happened. With Loren in the room during the event, Ollie knew that, if any issues arose during the day, she was there to answer questions and help facilitate solutions. “The event exceeded expectations,” said Ollie. “We doubled what we were planning on raising and everything went so smoothly. Loren was just perfect and totally gave us the confidence to pull it off.” Numerous people commented to Ollie and others after the luncheon on the day’s tremendous success.

In reflecting on her experience, Loren remarked that she was “really proud to be a part of it. Doing something like this really took me out of my day-to-day routine and I loved getting to meet new people, especially the students who volunteer and participate in Hillel.” She added, “you know, there are so many ways to give back these days, so many different organizations and causes to get involved with. But being a proud Jewish person, if I can give back in that capacity then that’s my priority.”

Would you like to be a pro bono consultant? Share your skills. Are you a nonprofit seeking assistance? Request pro bono help.

For more information about the Pro Bono Practice, contact Bab Freiberg, Director of Strategic Consulting.


October 22, 2015


Noa Silver