10/8/09

To Pro-Bono Or Not To Pro-Bono Recap


Thinkhaus hosted an informal discussion about working pro-bono for non-profits in the current economic downfall. Noah Scalin, of Another Limited Rebellion Design, made some quite profound statements and had good advice for non-profits and creatives about ensuring a better tomorrow.

The open discussion included a dialogue about how some non-profits are so used to receiving free or cheap services from larger ad-agencies, that they are unwilling to pay socially conscious design firms. The problem with this common practice is that many of these larger ad agencies are also benefiting corporations whom are working against the non-profit's goals. This is especially contradictory because advertisers and designers create visuals that promote/represent an organization or corporation. Not only is participating in this practice incredibly unproductive for the non-profit and agency (if the agency does indeed care about the non-profit's goals), but it also ensures that the few socially conscious design firms whom do not work for corporations with contradictory ethics, might eventually become extinct.

In addition to this contradiction, it is common practice for agencies working discount or pro-bono to concentrate their focus on winning awards rather than truly focusing on the mission of the non-profit. It is essentially viewed as "Well, if I can't get money for this . . . than I will receive recognition for it." Let’s not kid ourselves - like corporations, ad agencies are a business that will not necessarily perform random acts of generosity unless they can benefit from it. These agencies also will not commonly devote their full attention to what they refer to as, pro-bono side-projects. Therefore, allocating funds for a socially conscious design firm results in a more heartfelt solution; they are dedicated to the cause as both a business and a citizen with a bottom line that includes social progress.

To top it off, many larger non-profits have CEO's whom make upwards of six figure salaries. This makes excuses such as, "lack of funding," laughable to socially conscious creatives - in certain circumstances.

In conclusion, the general consensus is to provide pro-bono work for the people whom need it. Meaning, work for non-profits whom you are absolutely confident do not have the funding and would benefit from your services. One way of accomplishing this is to ask for a non-profits annual report. All non-profits must have an annual report available to the public - even if this means you must sit in their office while you read it. As for non-profits, think twice before accepting the free work from large agencies and ask them what the vested interest of the agency is, how much time they will be devoting, and how many other projects they are currently working on.

Other resources with info on non-profits:
http://www2.guidestar.org/
http://www.charitywatch.org/

Some local socially conscious design firms:
Thinkhaus Design
Another Limited Rebellion Design
Free Range Graphics


If you know of other helpful resources, please post in the comments section below.

1 comment:

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