Any tips for doing Pro Bono work?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by bluetooth, Jul 22, 2010.

  1. bluetooth macrumors 6502a


    May 1, 2007
    I'm interested in doing some pro bono design work, which is work undertaken voluntarily without payment as a public service for charities and non profit organizations.

    I am wondering if anyone here has any experience with this and if so, how did you go about approaching the organizations you were interested in helping?

    I would likely be contacting organizations online, so any tips, approaches, cautions etc. are appreciated. I would ideally like to do 1 project per month (whether it be a brochure, flyer, poster, ad etc.).

  2. lucidmedia macrumors 6502a

    Oct 13, 2008
    Wellington, New Zealand
    There are a few web sites that connect charities and volunteers together based upon needs and skills. They are usually local, however. There are several for the Boston USA area, but you have to see what is available in your area.

    However, finding such places is not hard... just identify a group that is doing work you care about and make a connection with them.

    Also, a word of warning: You often can do more good spending your time ladling soup in a soup kitchen or swinging a hammer then doing an identity or poster for a charity! Quite a few non-profits here in Boston are "logo poor", meaning that some big design firm made them a beautiful identity as a pro-bono project, but they struggle daily for the things they really need to provide their services - volunteers, money, etc.

    I am in no way trying to discourage you from service, but many designers don't consider the real needs of an organization. You know the old saying "When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail?" Many non-profits need "service design" long before they need "graphic design" so think about how, as a creative person, you can assist at the system level. If you are going to donate your time, focus on the unique problems of that non-profit, not the "solutions" we are so used to creating (borchures, ads, flyers, etc.)

    So, for example, redesigning their paper forms, or moving them online and connecting them to a database so they have easier access to the data may be far more useful than traditional marketing or branding.
  3. citizenzen macrumors 65816

    Mar 22, 2010
    Nice suggestion!
  4. bluetooth thread starter macrumors 6502a


    May 1, 2007
    Thanks for the great advice...much appreciated!
  5. ezekielrage_99 macrumors 68040


    Oct 12, 2005
    Honestly I wouldn't do it... It just tends to get out of hand sometimes...

    But if you must I would personally try schools or churches, they would really value that type of work (I have done some in the past).
  6. eponym macrumors 6502

    Jul 2, 2010
    Treat it like a normal paying gig. Have set deliverables and dates. Don't just wing it. Otherwise you run the risk of a client milking every minute of free work/ideas they can get out of you.
  7. Zoreke macrumors member

    Jul 26, 2010
    Tip: don't do it.

    I have had some bad experiences with Pro Bono work, it usually sucks your time, energy and resources...

    If you really want to do it, here'are some sugestions:

    1- Creative freedom, you do what you want and they can't question it.
    2- Limit the changes on copy and other stuff to 1 round and that's it (or else it becomes a nightmare).
    3- Don't get to involved, do the graphics and that's it...

    One of these groups nearly destroyed a Studio were I used to work... :mad:

    Good luck...
  8. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    I agree with this. I did some photography work for a fund-raiser. I gave them strict guidelines about how much time I was willing to offer, and what dates I would be available for the work (it was for a specific event, so setting up dates was appropriate - maybe not in your case). They were happy to work within my constraints - at least as much as any client is.... and I was able to be flexible at the last minute to a scheduling change because everything else was under control.

    Another way to handle this is to actually bill them for their time, and then donate the payment back. They will tend to prioritize their needs better since they are actually valuing the time you are offering, and they still doesn't cost them anything. Plus it makes your accounting easier. I'm pretty sure that services donated to a charity still need to be declared as income as well for tax purposes in Canada. Get some tax advice though.... but the donating the amount back keeps the paperwork easier to track.

  9. decksnap macrumors 68040


    Apr 11, 2003
    There's so much need out there that you really should only pick and choose a) those that need it and b) those that you care about. The point about creative freedom is important... for once you are not getting paid, so make sure the client is utilizing you for your creative talent and not as an 'arm' to create exactly what they think they need.

    Also, don't over commit. Start with a logo, for instance, and see how that process goes for you. I have done pro bono for large committees where nothing would ever get done or decided on, and in the end some were just not worth it. Others were success stories all around with some very grateful people doing good things.
  10. bluetooth thread starter macrumors 6502a


    May 1, 2007

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