DEFINITION of 'Pro Bono'

Professional services dispensed on a voluntary basis at no cost to the recipient. Derived from Latin phrase "pro bono publico", pro bono means to work for the public good, and it is most commonly used in the legal profession. The provider of a pro bono service may generally do so only to a party that is unable to afford the service. In doing so, the provider is perceived to be imparting a benefit for the greater good, rather than for the typical profit motive.


Some financial planners provide pro bono services to non-profit organizations and individuals who have impoverished themselves through financial mismanagement. Pro bono services offered may be of immense value to someone who can avert bankruptcy. For example, a family in financial troubles might need advice, but can not pay for it. Pro bono services are the only help available when the family needs it most. Providing pro bono financial services also has practical benefits, in that it gives young professionals an opportunity to nurture their professional development, that help them ultimately advance their own practices, by helping them hone their interviewing skills, negotiation techniques and experience working with interpreters. But the most important effect of pro bono financial planning, is that it empowers individuals and organizations receiving the advice to make more responsible fiscal decisions, by giving them educational support they need to become more financially literate, and the tools needed to achieve financial autonomy, so that they may stand on their own.

Likely recipients of pro bono services, include:

• Individuals of limited means.

• Charitable, community, civic, religious, governmental or educational organizations established to primarily to cater to individuals or families of limited means.

• Immigrants and immigrant communities.

• Nascent non-profit groups looking to further their organizational and logistical establishment, where payment of the standard fees would significantly hemorrhage or wholly deplete the organization's economic resources.

There are many foundations that are established for the purpose of recruiting pro bono professionals, for whom they offer them resources and technical support. Some of these resource centers have funds which help pro bono financial planners cover out-of-pocket expenses such as document production, copying and postage fees. The advantage of organized programs is that they help professionals interested in donating their time and services, but do no personally know people in need of pro bono financial advice.

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