Natasha Wagiet: Positively impacting her community the pro bono way

pro bono (def)

Free legal services that are offered to people who do not have the financial means to afford legal representation.

In South Africa, all attorneys are legally required to provide a certain number of hours of pro bono services each year in order to remain in practice.


Natasha Wagiet brings an immediate sense of calm to a room, her warmth of character is infectious and you can’t help but feel comfortable in her presence.

She currently works as the Pro Bono Coordinator at the Mitchells Plain Office (in Cape Town) for ENSafrica, Africa’s largest law firm.

Natasha’s family background ensured she would have a passion for education, given her parents being the first in their respective families to obtain tertiary qualifications and further obtaining postgraduate qualifications.

Natasha completed her Bachelor of Laws at the University of Cape Town followed by a Masters of Law at the University of the Western Cape majoring in corporate law. Her next educational pursuit is her Doctorate, with a possible focus on the role of the corporate sector and pro bono in facilitating access to justice.

There is no “typical day” at the pro bono office for Natasha and that is what she loves about it.

Some of what she attends to involves consulting with clients, both walk-in and those with appointments. The pro bono office also presents sessions as part of their enterprise development and legal education.

Natasha also assists and reviews corporate social investment proposals as well as mentors students to prepare for moots.

Find a mentor, preferably more than one, and learn as much as you can from them. Click To Tweet

Natasha is proudest of the simple feats that the pro bono office manages to achieve on a daily basis – assisting an 88-year-old woman to sign her will, helping her take ownership of her property and empowering her wishes through her will, going after an ex-husband who has been avoiding maintenance payments and managing to garnishee his wages to ensure the ex-wife receives the maintenance payment she is legally entitled to.

It is these “bread and butter” issues, what affects the daily lives of people that Natasha and the pro bono office manage to touch on and positively impact through their hard work. It is about using the law to empower communities, such as Mitchells Plain, that have so often been underserviced or felt as if the law was beyond their reach.

A further initiative to be celebrated is the Gogo Project, which Natasha spearheaded, whereby employees of ENSafrica were given the opportunity to donate blankets for the elderly in Mitchells Plain.

Instead of doing a handover of just the blankets, Natasha organized for a lunch that was catered for by a business from Mitchells Plain, further enforcing her support for community upliftment. The elderly were provided with a buffet lunch as well as a talk about dignity before they were handed the sponsored blankets.

One can imagine that working in this sector can be emotionally strenuous but Natasha has found key ways in which to equip herself to address this. She lives 30 kilometers from the pro bono office and uses this driving time to mentally prepare for the day on the way to work as well as to destress and process the day on her drive home.

Natasha also finds it important to truly focus and be present wherever you are – when spending time with family and friend, enjoy doing that and be there. It is also important to find other hobbies/ activities that fulfill you.

For Natasha, that is being created through makeup (she recently completed a course on it). I asked Natasha to describe herself in terms of a make-up item; she decided on deep gold eyeshadow because it is both bold and warm.

Surround yourself with people who ground and challenge you, who can be real with you. Click To Tweet

Natasha’s advice to aspiring women who would want to work in a similar role is simple – find a mentor, preferably more than one, and learn as much as you can from them.

She further advocates job shadowing and volunteering to make sure that working in this sector really is for you. Natasha believes that this is definitely a “calling and not a job” and as such you must be sure that your passion is in the right place.

Natasha knows she is working in the right place for her because she is inspired by “the ordinary men and women who sacrifice in order to provide a better life for their children. I see them and am in awe of them every single day”.

Know of anyone impacting your community? Share their story with us here.

Volunteering: Diversify your professional experience and drive social impact

Let's admit - w/everyday #adulting struggles, it can be difficult to consistently volunteer Click To Tweet

Community service and a spirit of volunteerism hold a place in the hearts of many millennials. We relentlessly seek ways to care for the marginalized. College provided a perfect platform for us to exercise this passion as opportunities to plug into communities and give back were ready-made; all we really needed to do was sign up and show up.

Life after university has, however, proved to be a different story as we have to seek out volunteer opportunities on our own. Let’s admit: with jam-packed schedules and the everyday adulting struggles, it can be quite difficult to find an organization to volunteer with on a consistent basis.


Enter skill-based volunteering

This is where skill-based volunteering —typically known as pro bono work— comes in. Skill-based service enables you to match your skills and interests with the needs of a non-profit. Many non-profits are often lacking the staff capacity, so they need help in areas like marketing, financial management, strategic planning, and technology. Organizations are in need of professionals to partner with them in solving complex, pressing issues —and that’s where you provide value.

While filling an essential need, volunteering gives you an invaluable opportunity to sharpen your skills and diversify your background in areas that interest you. Technology opens greater access to organizations and projects that are all over the globe.

Through skill-based volunteering, the digitally savvy woman can tap into a deeper pool of opportunities that are not readily available in her current network. You’ll build a portfolio for that side hustle you’ve been meaning to kick start and amp up the experience section of your CV. All from the comfort of your living room with a warm cup of coffee (or tea) in hand.

zendaya dusting off shoulder

Skill-based volunteering grants you an invaluable opportunity to sharpen your skills Click To Tweet

I started my skill-based volunteering journey to explore an interest in consulting non-profit organizations. I wanted to facilitate an experience that would mirror the expert-client relationship found in working with organizations to help further their mission.

After looking through LinkedIn postings and several volunteer websites, I came across Catchafire —a website that connects professionals with nonprofits. Within three months, I worked with three organization on projects that involved marketing and communications strategy. The most rewarding part being that these organizations supported issues that I cared about!

If you’re ready to launch your skill-based volunteering journey, here are 3 quick ways to get started:

  1. Sit down and draw a list of the competencies you’d like to build. A great way to do this is to review career opportunities that interest you and see what a competitive candidate background looks like. This can help you determine the kinds of projects to take on.
  2. Think of causes that you’re most passionate about. If you enjoy working with troubled teens, for example, you can focus your search on organizations that serve that demographic. This will not only allow you to engage a community you care for but also aid in addressing the issues facing it.
  3. Once you’ve narrowed your list of competencies and causes, it’s time to reach out to nonprofits. Leverage volunteer matchmaking platforms like Catchafire and Taproot, or utilize your LinkedIn profile. Catchafire connects volunteer professionals with nonprofits through 1-hour consulting phone calls and/or fully-fledged projects. My favorite aspect of Catchafire is the personal dashboard it generates with project details, experience testimonials, and your monetized impact —all great metrics to share on your CV or portfolio. Taproot has pro-bono opportunities ranging from one-on-one consultations to team-based, long-term projects. On LinkedIn you can specify in the volunteer section that you’re searching for pro-bono projects, thus making it easier for nonprofits to find you.

As you start working with nonprofit organizations, it’s important to treat these projects with the same regard and excellence as you would any other engagement. Discuss project specifics and map out a project timeline with benchmarks, deliverables and KPIs. A carefully organized experience enables you to share your skills in a meaningful way and also ensures that the nonprofits get quality service.

Organized skill-based volunteering enables you to share your skills in a meaningful way Click To Tweet

What are you waiting for?

The bottom line is that skill-based volunteering is a great way to build and develop your professional background as you provide value and drive social impact in marginalized communities.

While you diversify your CV, you’re also building a network of professionals active in the causes you’re most passionate about. Therein opening up opportunities for future ventures to implement sustainable community development programs.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start volunteering! To help guide you through the volunteering process, SLA has created a cheat sheet. Grab it by here —sign up and slay up!