As coaches, we know how powerful and impactful coaching can be. We see how our clients become more effective, more impactful, more centered, more fulfilled and happy. For those clients who are working inside organizations, their coaching may translate into better business decisions, more effective communication with teams and peers, more profitable partnerships with customers and stakeholders.

So it makes sense that Fortune 500 companies – and other organizations with professional development funds – offer coaching to their leaders, as well as those identified as “high potential” or emerging leaders. They are making an investment that they know will yield returns. What is less common is for grass-roots non-profits, local government agencies, school districts, and other types of organizations to bring coaching to their leaders and teams. In many cases, they don’t have the resources to access professional coaching.

Why should coaching only be accessible to the “usual suspects” working within large organizations or those with bigger budgets? Knowing how powerful coaching can be, what type of wider impact could professional coaching have by working with organizations whose mission is focused on social progress and the public good?

One way to “democratize” coaching and expand the pool of people who are able to benefit from it is to offer coaching services for free, or at a discount using a sliding scale.

In my own coaching practice, I have partnered with nonprofits to develop coaching packages for organizational leaders and emerging leaders that meet their professional development goals while staying within their budgets. In some cases, this has translated into 100% free coaching. In other cases, it has meant offering a nonprofit discount. This has enabled people working for social progress – who never would have experienced coaching otherwise – to tap into its benefits. And given the focus of their work, the ripple effect of coaching on communities in need is extremely rewarding.

For those of us for whom coaching is not only a calling and a passion but also a livelihood, it is not realistic to do only pro bono or discounted coaching. However, we can take a look at our businesses and coaching practices to see where there may be room for a selective number of coaching hours to be provided at a lower price.

Think of it as your own businesses’ “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) program. And you get to choose who benefits, what type of impact you would like your CSR to have.

The ICF Foundation has made it easier for us coaches to provide and experience coaching for the public good (which is what pro bono publico means in Latin). The Ignite initiative provides tools and support to ICF chapters and individual coaches that want to get involved in coaching for social progress. There are speaking points and fact sheets and videos to help explain the power of coaching to a prospective partner organization. There are sample contracts, project tracking forms, and evaluation forms so that coaches doing pro bono work don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

If you are interested in helping to make coaching more accessible and bring it to people who aren’t the “usual suspects” who are typically offered coaching, contact your ICF chapter to find out how you could get involved with coaching for social impact. You may also contact the ICF Foundation at

Shana Montesol Johnson, PCC
ICF Foundation Council of Ambassador

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