Our previous post explored the pitfalls of pro-bono arrangements, and those pitfalls are important factors to consider when soliciting or considering an offer of pro-bono work. Pro-bono arrangements can be valuable to a nonprofit organization, however, and should not be dismissed out-of-hand. These arrangements work best when they are part of a holistic approach to design, communications, and digital content management. Here are a few best practices for building a sustainable framework to accept pro-bono work and incorporate it into your communications program in a sustainable manner:
- Establish a budget for the needs of your communications program and know how much your organization can afford for this work. If you need a website redesign, for example, you should start by figuring out the scope of requirements for the new site and by knowing what you can afford. Once you have those details ironed out, you can either adjust your expectations for the project or look for pro-bono contributions to make up the difference between the resources available and the requirements of the project.
- Identify firms that specialize in nonprofit work, or demonstrate expertise in your organization’s particular issue area, and that fall into your price range. Agencies and firms that are familiar with nonprofit organizations are well-positions to deal with the ins and outs of the unique needs of nonprofits. Also, with the ever-expanding world of entrepreneurial providers of creative services, there are very talented professionals offering their services at a wide range of prices. Large firms, small agencies, and solo partitioners all have different advantages, and knowing people at all of these different levels can be beneficial to you in planning and executing your communications strategy.
- Build a relationship with your contractor. In order to build a sustainable content ecosystem, you will need to make the most of the human and intellectual capital that is being created when you work with a firm or agency. When you can build on common experience and knowledge from past work together, you can reach your common goals more efficiently and with less drama than if you were to work with a new firm or agency on every project. Further, if you have a solid relationship with your contractor, you may be able to approach them ore easily with solicitations for special pro-bono or discounted projects. Learn more about best practices for building long-term working relationships here.
- Finally, as a corollary to the previous point, you should do your best to make sure your consultant partners will be around for the long run. It is helpful to know the consultant’s track record on this front — how long have they been in business, and how old are some of their client relationships? Learn more about what to look for from contractors to evaluate their capability for long-term viability here.
Without an eye on the long-term relationship, a pro-bono arrangement can be rife with pitfalls and create unsustainable expectations within your organization. The first key to making the most of pro-bono arrangements is to choose your consultant partners carefully so that they have some stake or ideological investment in the work they are doing for you. Then it is a matter of cultivating a strong bond between the outside firm, agency, or consultant and your organization so that you can build a case for the possibility of pro-bono work later on in your relationship. If you keep some of these considerations in mind when soliciting or considering a pro-bono arrangement, you will be on the right track to serving your organization well in the long run.