GSM Blog - read more about print on paper.

Pro Bono Design for Charity – to do or not to do?…

Pro bono

In GSM10 we caught up with Mandy Nelson from G&A Creative Agency to discuss the Pros and Cons of Pro Bono work for charity. Our question – Does providing free design to non-profits devalue design services, or add value to a good cause?

I often ask myself if working for nix is worth it. The only possible answer is a definite ‘maybe’! It depends on your viewpoint – I want to unbundle that question.

Pro Bono Work for a CharityFull Colour Trust

I am settlor of the Full Colour Trust as well as joint owner of G&A Creative Agency (G&A), provider of design services to the Trust. Our pro bono work for the Trust has expanded how I think about doing business. It has also led to insights into social conscience marketing.

As a trustee, I work only within my sphere of influence to help people I actually know. I focus on building on connections and networks in my own industry. The Trust makes a positive difference. Although, it’s not possible to quantify that in dollars.

The design work supplied by G&A added value to the cause and I’m pretty sure it helped build our good name too. The Full Colour Trust’s core target is a sophisticated, critical group of designers, printers, paper suppliers and others associated with our own industry. Because of this, it was imperative to come up with a robust strategy and a stunning aesthetic across all collateral.

We had to display an inspirational brand that showcased our industry or the Trust would lack credibility. It is much harder to point to a commercial return on investment for G&A—although I’d hasten to add that was not really the reason for getting involved. G&A had the resources to cope with the extra workload at the time and could afford to sponsor the Full Colour Trust.

Value & Worth

That question about free design services devaluing a designer’s worth is not going to go away though. There seems to be a rising tide of cheap or free design services on offer. How often do you get – ‘Would you like a free website design with your switch to a new ISP Madam; or a free ad layout design with your purchase of print media Sir?’. Are you getting emails shouting at you offering logo designs from an overseas company for only US$26?!

Cheap and free design solutions will be of varying and sometimes questionable quality. I can only remind everyone tempted by such services that craftsmanship and substantial research into brand values and marketing strategy typically underpin truly great design. Local knowledge and cultural insights might also be lacking when one designs out of context from a distance. People usually get what they pay for.

Social Conscience Marketing

So yes, freebies undercut value in every industry—although working for charities is typically a special situation.

Those who can afford to do it shouldn’t hesitate. Personally, I will be expanding my adventures in social conscience marketing. I’ll be coming up with creative ways to promote a business and a good cause at the same time. While ensuring there is always a budget to properly pay the designer!

This article was originally published in GSM10. To read this and other great articles purchase this issue here.