May 25, 2016 |
There is nothing more rewarding than having a great client and developing a strong relationship. Mutual respect for each other and for the work that each provides is a beautiful thing.
Such is my story with United Through Reading (UTR). What started as basic graphic design services over 18 years ago has blossomed into the type of client-partner relationship that my peers in the branding industry dream about. I’m privileged to be considered a trusted advisor for this organization while also providing design and branding services when requested.
United Through Reading is dedicated to uniting U.S. military families who face physical separation by facilitating the bonding experience of reading aloud together. One of the most difficult things that a child can experience is having a parent separated from them for an indeterminate period of time. United Through Reading helps ease the stress of separation for military families by having service members, who are separated from the children they love, read children’s books aloud on video for the child to watch at home.
The proven impact this program provides – in regards to connecting families, decreasing the stress caused by separation, and encouraging reading – is beyond impressive.
Because of UTR’s important work, the incredible team of individuals who run the program and deliver services to over 200 locations around the world, and my deep sense of family – it was almost inevitable that I would become passionate about this mission.
Tonight Buchanan Design and I are proud to be a sponsor for UTR’s Tribute to Military Families Gala in Washington, D.C. Honoring those who make a difference for military families, this event will be attended by military leadership from all branches, over 20 members of congress, and industry leaders from around the country.
I feel very privileged to sit on their national board of trustees, and equally honored to be a small part of this amazing organization.
Community, Events, Partnership
April 4, 2016 |
Before answering this question, here are some thoughts to help you evaluate opportunities and make good business decisions.
Pro bono comes from the Latin, “pro bono public” or “work done without compensation for the public good.” This term comes up often in our industry. It’s a great way to give back to your community and leverage your talents to make a positive impact for organizations that might otherwise not have the resources. It can also cost you time and resources that may effect your livelihood and making enough money to stay in business.
When given the opportunity, and if my schedule allowed, I have provided pro bono work to many organizations and individuals over the last 20 years. I never used a strategic approach to evaluate the opportunity until it was too late to “skip.” The pro bono requests came in the form of referrals or random inquiries.
Finally after all these years, I came to realize an important fact… Pro bono projects need to align with MY values and community interests AND provide exposure opportunities that would help me grow or advance my business. This became the foundation for Orange Tree Project, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that I founded in 2015.
Suggestions for maximizing your creative efforts:
Get the name of your business out into the community. You never know who is looking.
Pro bono projects are often associated to a nonprofit, and all nonprofits have a board of directors who are business or community leaders. They can be a great business development opportunity.
Take the opportunity to explore and experiment with concepts and design executions without compromising the brand integrity of the nonprofit.
Select a nonprofit that is looking to raise the brand bar and looking for the right creative partner. The results from this will add diversity and range to your portfolio.
Take this opportunity to educate a group of individuals about the benefits that come when working with a design professional. It’s a great way to reinforce the value of design.
This can be a great opportunity to involve the entire team. Split up the responsibilities from design projects, social media posts, meetings, or volunteering for pro bono clients so everyone has a chance to get involved. A great “feel good” boost to the energy of the office.
Pro bono blues!
Great intentions don’t always lead to rewards… here are some issues to be aware of:
Give your pro bono time carefully or “scope creep” can easily take over, especially when working with a nonprofit who doesn’t have much experience working with a design agency. Find the right balance between paying clients and pro bono projects.
Ask the right questions up front to ensure that you and the nonprofit have set clear ground rules for working together. The pro bono relationship can quickly go out the window if you let it. Nonprofit clients can quickly forget the pro bono etiquette and become one of those “frustrating” clients. Your time is valuable and the last thing you want is to do the work out of obligation.
What’s Your Worth
It’s important to share the value of your professional work. Especially when there are so many nonprofit organizations out there looking for the right creative partner. Not explaining the value of your work can come back to haunt you when they need something in the future, or worse, refer you to others because you’re a nice person and don’t charge much, if at all. Even clients in pro bono arrangements should know exactly what the work was worth so they can truly appreciate it’s value. You’re establishing a mutually beneficial relationship.
Pro bono clients always start with the great enthusiasm about shining your business name in lights… Don’t be afraid to be specific when asking for exposure that will benefit your business in exchange for pro bono work. And put it in writing.
All these conversations are easier to have with causes that you believe in and want to help. It’s important to support causes that have special meaning.
How to make it work for everyone:
Establish criteria for working together
As the professional providing services for free, it’s important to establish ground rules at the start of the project. Deliverables, timeline, out-of-pocket reimbursements, approval process, rounds of revisions, and any other specifics should all be discussed to avoid surprises once the project begins. It’s always a good idea to establish a key contact to work with who can coordinate routing proofs and feedback. Working with a “committee” can create extra work and confusion.
Set realistic expectations
Clear expectations are key to getting everyone on the same page, and assuring the best possible experience for all. A pro bono project should not be treated any differently than working with paying clients. Often times pro bono work gets shuffled in between paying projects, but it’s important to always be professional and not let the client feel as though they are not as important. Schedule deadlines and appointments according to your schedule.
Negotiate a fair deal
Your work has value and the nonprofit knows it. Don’t be afraid to ask for things such as:
- Design credit on printed materials or website.
- Sponsorship listing on event programs, invitations,
website, or any forms of advertising.
- If applicable, request a complimentary membership
or tickets for event access.
- Attend a board meeting where you can be
introduced to the entire board.
- Social media promotions highlighting your company
and the great work you are providing.
- Highlight in a printed or online newsletter.
Pro bono clients evolve and can often become paying clients once they understand how valuable design can be. This has happened for us often and reason enough to be very picky when selecting your next pro bono client.
Community, Design Community, Design Industry, Partnership
December 10, 2015 |
Perfect for a month dedicated to giving, we believe in thoughtful and personal gifts that thank friends and clients for their partnership and their business. A meaningful example of this sentiment is a 2016 calendar designed as a thank you for the donors of our nonprofit client, TEL HI Neighborhood Center.
TEL HI is an amazing organization dedicated to the growth and empowerment of their community in San Francisco since 1890. That’s over 125 years of dedication to people. Because of this, the calendar highlights every month with one of TEL HI’s many accomplishments. For example, in November, a small blurb describes TEL HI hosting an annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner. Varying fruits, vegetables, and flowers is a reflection of their diverse community. It’s also inspired by their most recent project. TEL HI successfully raised over $15,000 in two months to develop an Urban Teaching Garden that brings more nature into their urban community and more. You can learn more about their garden project here: http://tilt.tc/gnTWU
The 2016 calendar is a spiral bound collection of custom illustrations digitally printed on uncoated paper. It’s a token of appreciation that keeps giving throughout the year. It’s also the perfect monthly reminder of why it’s important to invest in this nonprofit.
If you’re like to learn more about TEL HI, please visit: http://telhi.org
Click below to view all the illustrations in this 2016 calendar.
Case Studies, Community, Partnership, Projects
May 9, 2015 |
As many of you may know, over the years we have developed a partnership with TEL HI – a nonprofit community center located in the heart of San Francisco. Our many projects for TEL HI include branding, collateral design, website design,environmental design, and of course designing all the materials needed to promote and support their annual fundraising Gala. This year, in celebration of TEL HI’s 125 year anniversary, a group of us from Buchanan Design flew out to give our support at its annual Taste of TEL HI gala.
We spent the night connecting with the TEL HI team, sampled fantastic food and spirits provided by San Francisco’s best restaurants, and even bid on some terrific silent auction items. It was very warming to see the many people in the community affected by the important services that TEL HI provides. It was clear to see just how much the community loves and supports TEL HI by the crowds and the amount of money raised in one evening. It was a record year and we were honored to have played a part in that.
April 24, 2015 |
After years of planning and months of paperwork and filing, Orange Tree Project has officially received 501c3 nonprofit status! Orange Tree Project was conceived at Buchanan Design with the mission of helping nonprofits receive professional design services from San Diego’s leading design agencies. It’s our way of leveraging the generosity of the design community to positively impact nonprofits who’s mission improves the lives of families and communities. OTP will soon launch an online store to help with fundraising efforts, selling uniquely designed products, each design inspired by a positive message.
You can read more about Orange Tree Project and shop at orangetreeproject.org.
Community, Design Community, Partnership