Whether you’re a seasoned professional or just starting out, there are valid reasons to pursue pro bono projects if you have the time. While the term gratuitous Frequently referring to free legal services, it also applies to any free commercial service performed for the public good.
While it can easily be interpreted as the work you are doing because you are not busy, or because you may have an ulterior motive in believing that paid work will be rewarding, neither of these have been the case for me. I do pro bono work out of a moral responsibility to perform free services for a noble cause. But I must be careful not to in any way offend any of my paying clients, some of whom are non-profit organizations. For this reason, such work is always done discreetly, without fanfare or public displays to garner praise.
It’s also easy to feel that such work degrades the value of your services, since you’re wasting business efforts that you’re normally paid for. In fact, you may even feel taken advantage of by those you are trying to help. Whether it’s a justifiable concern or not, you’ll need to dismiss these fears for the sake of fulfilling the reason you agreed to donate your skills in the first place, which is to contribute to the well-being of the community in a special way. Your motivation to do your best in this endeavor should have nothing to do with gaining fame or fortune, but rather with providing a valuable service that you and your company can be proud of. If something else comes as a result, be it public gratitude or future paid work, that should look like a wonderful bonus, but it’s certainly not to be expected.
In my early days, my workload was so heavy that even considering doing pro bono work was completely out of the question. However, there were times when I had no choice and had to fit in for political reasons, let’s say. This means that you may have already been working with a major client (aren’t they all major clients?) at a prominent business in the community, and one of your favorite charities needed some marketing work done for a good cause. Sometimes clients like this would pay for such services, but more often than not, they expected us to contribute our services free of charge for the benefit of all. And of course we would deliver, keeping both the client and the charity very satisfied.
In today’s economic environment, with so many highly-skilled and educated people out of work, you’d think the need for pro bono services would be handled by this great pool of talent. Ironically, it almost seems that if you are labeled “unemployed” it logically follows that you may not be “qualified” or “valuable” enough as a resource available for pro bono work. While this can unfortunately be a common misconception, it has led to continued requests for pro bono work from our firm. Since I thrive under pressure and enjoy customer service that I excel at, these requests serve to bolster my self-esteem even though they usually come at the last minute when I’m already busy with other pressing deadlines. The reason I’m flattered usually relates to knowing that they had tried to do the project themselves to avoid asking for my help, but had to admit there was no substitute for the inspired professionalism we provided; hence your belated call for help.
However, I must explain that these requests come from a non-profit source to which we have regularly donated our services for the last five years and always agree to continue without reservation. Why? First, they had initially consulted us on the recommendation of their president, a prominent real estate agent, with whom we were doing business at the time, for a comprehensive marketing plan for which they paid our usual fee. They even implemented that plan over the next two years through other consultants in the area who donated their services. When they came back to receive more work from us, we offered to continue on a pro bono basis. We clearly recognize that there are a number of good reasons why our pro bono efforts on behalf of this organization are worthwhile:
1. The organization is a large religious group that respects diversity and believes in inclusion; values open speech and fights for fairness in every way. They are committed to fixing the world, a responsibility that shapes their belief that social justice begins within the community. Finally, they emphasize the importance of nurturing the hearts, souls, and minds of adults and children, through the best possible educational opportunities. Always looking for new members, the organization is one of great personal dedication and affection. For these reasons, we are honored to represent your efforts, but we are not members of this organization, nor do we endorse your religion or any religion.
2. Your projects are large, challenging, and interesting, giving our work wide visibility in the community. Typical projects have included large color advertisements and posters for high-profile artists; fundraising flyers and stationery; membership brochures; signs; and a variety of press releases. Although we donate our services, the organization pays the necessary charges for printing, signage, and media space.
2. We are given complete freedom to express our creativity, marketing savvy, and design expertise without restrictions or the usual manipulation typical of some “paying” clients who may have a personal agenda or inherent frustrated desire to be the “artist” .
3. Most of the members of this religious non-profit organization are successful business owners or practicing professionals who spend countless hours of their free time and that of their families enjoying the programs and events offered and working towards success. long term of the organization. That makes us partners working toward a common goal for which they are sincerely grateful. As a result, some of these members hire us to do paid marketing work for their companies on a sporadic basis. However, we never aggressively seek your business or expect anything in return for our pro bono services.
4. While not something we require, we do receive a free advertisement in your event programs that we design and send to ensure an accurate message is delivered. Such an announcement will likely serve primarily as an internal reminder to members that we are professionally involved on a pro bono basis, perhaps making it easier for them to recommend us, if appropriate.
We realized a long time ago that a special bond had been forged with many members of this congregation as a result of extensive research we did to prepare their initial marketing plan. We learned many moving stories about their love for this organization and its effects on their personal family history, many of which became the basis for the initiatives we recommend.
With a total of approximately eighty families involved, the goodwill generated by our continued pro bono efforts has tremendously positive repercussions within the community. This kind of gratitude is something money can’t buy. But beyond that, the satisfaction we get from seeing our good work help this organization build a better world is priceless and far outweighs any residual work we can get from its members.
So why work pro bono? Because it’s the right thing to do. And that’s enough.