The Pros of Pro Bono

Shift•ology’s Partnership with Springfield Rotary provides 360-degree benefits

By Dan Toland

“Pro Bono”…it’s a funny sounding phrase that does get used now and again in the professional world. But what exactly does it mean? And what’s so “pro” about it? We defined and discussed the nuances of pro bono work and the benefits it can have for client, agency and the community during a recent episode of our “Shooting the Shift” podcast featuring Eddie Bell of the Springfield, Ohio Rotary Club, the host of an annual gourmet food truck competition that has become Springfield’s “Must Taste Event of the Summer.”

Eleven years ago, the Springfield, Ohio Rotary Club had an idea to create a charitable community event in the form of a gourmet food truck competition. Somehow, Eddie Bell, current president of the club, was put in charge of marketing the event, something in which he admittedly was not that well versed. He had a lot to learn, and a lot he couldn’t do on his own.

“We wanted to create a competition to attract and award prize money to high quality food trucks at this new, unknown event,” said Bell. “We had to attract food trucks, fundraisers and the community, and it had to be promoted. There were a lot of little marketing niches we had to figure out to make it a success. I was in desperate need of help.”

Eddie turned to Shift•ology CEO Melanie Wilt, a fellow Rotarian, for assistance. Wilt saw an opportunity to form a unique client-agency relationship by making the competition a “pro bono” project for the company.

(Sidebar..definition of pro bono: Services that are rendered by a professional for free or at a lower cost)

“Pro bono essentially means we are doing the project on a volunteer basis,” said Shift•ology Account Manager Emily Bennett. “It does seem counterproductive, as we are a business, and we’re trying to make money, but Melanie has instilled within our culture for us to use our talents and expertise to give back to our community, which happens to be marketing.”

But Shift•ology just doesn’t hand out free work on a regular basis.

“We were looking for a pro bono project at the time, and this was the perfect fit, and has been the perfect partnership. If not everybody is passionate about it, it’s hard to get people to give their services for free. This event is doing good in our community, and our work here is making a true impact. We are big on results, and we can see them with the impact Rotary is making in our community. This works for us. It aligns with our business goals, mission and values,” said Bennett.

While essentially provided for free, pro bono projects can provide many benefits not just to the client, but to the agency as well.

“We always want to put our best work forward, especially for such a meaningful event in our community,” said Bennett. “It’s a marketing opportunity for us. Being a pro bono project, and not tied to a specific scope of services, we have the ability to try a lot of things that we may not necessarily have been able to do with other clients. Eddie and his team have been very cool about letting us test new tactics and strategies. We’ve learned how to develop mobile apps, incorporate live streaming, run digital ads, book live television spots and more.”

“I’ve always thought experts should do their jobs, and the people that are not experts should stay clear and let them do their thing,” said Bell. “The first year, we saw the massive success the marketing effort and concept created, and we suddenly had an event that the community and the food truck vendors really appreciated. The word had to spread somehow. It was definitely teaming up with Shift•ology. We saw the success and just let you all run with it.”

“Shift•ology helped us create our entire marketing infrastructure. We had no logos, no marketing plan, no social media presence, no website, no sponsors, no collateral, no mobile app. It’s been amazing to see it all come together and be as successful as it has, and it’s all because of the relationship we have,” he added.

The 10th Annual Springfield Rotary Gourmet Food Truck is Saturday, Aug. 17, 2024 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Veterans Park in Springfield. The event has generated over $300,000 provided directly back to the community from sponsorships and concession sales. Learn more at

What the heck does pro bono mean? Eddie Bell and Emily Bennett helped us break it down, and share the benefits of our Shift•ology’s unique partnership with Springfield Rotary Club.

pro bo·no

/ˌprō ˈbōnō/
Services that are rendered by a professional for free or at a lower cost.