By Alex Greenwood
We often get requests from local organizations, churches and non-profits asking us to perform free work. The first impulse is usually “you betcha!” but that’s not always the most realistic answer to the request.
We’re proud of our long record of helping non-profit organizations by providing free (pro bono) services. We try to perform a set amount of community service hours every year. To that end, AlexanderG PR has helped several non-profits improve their image or promote fundraisers and special events over the years. We do the work with a happy heart: it’s an honor and privilege to serve our community.
However, the realities of the economy, time/scheduling and just plain “paying the bills” prevent us from helping every non-profit organization on a pro bono basis. Don’t get me wrong–we’re happy to discuss an organization’s needs–and if it’s a good fit for everyone, we’re glad to help out. Unfortunately, it’s not always feasible for us to work gratis on a project. However, we do try to recommend another firm or PR pro who might be able to help.
When we do agree to work on a pro bono basis, we’re careful there is a clear scope of work–a list of what we will and will not be able to do. We also make certain the non-profit we’re working for understands their role and deliverables in the process. As a former non-profit board member, I know it’s easy to forget that the company doing free work needs your help in supplying information, personnel and resources to ensure a successful project.
Pro bono work recipients have to make it a two-way street to help the donating firm be as efficient and successful as possible. That’s why the scope of work (hours, deliverables, timelines, etc.) is set in advance and must be respected by the client organization–it prevents misunderstandings, unrealistic expectations and (yup) even recriminations later.
Keep that in mind if you’re the non-profit looking for pro bono help: assurances to the prospective donor firm that a point person will mind the scope of work is a huge help in winning that firm’s assistance.
We also recommend you thank the firm often. In a program, on posters, online, invite them to post-event celebrations–wherever you can. Many firms won’t ask, but they will readily accept some credit and publicly-expressed gratitude for their work.
Being a business that’s sought after for pro bono work is indeed an honor, and we highly recommend all businesses help out their community organizations when possible. The trick to it is balancing the needs of paying the bills while being an energetic community booster.