Working on pro bono accounts is rewarding work. Not only do you feel good by doing good, but it can also positively affect your firm’s reputation. You can be sure that when you help others in need, people take notice.
The most common pro bono work goes to nonprofits, as they usually need the most assistance. Unfortunately, there is usually a limit to what you can do. This is especially true when your pro bono project has a small budget.
I personally have worked on several (low-to-no-budget) pro bono projects, and know that it’s still possible to achieve your lofty goals. Here are three tips that can help.
1. Set Expectations
When working on a small budget it’s important to set tangible goals based upon your allocation of funds. Don’t promise something that you won’t be able to deliver.
If you bill your time, like most agencies do, be strategic about it. Take the time to figure out who will work on the account and what their hours will be. If your budget is very low, consider hiring an intern.
Unfortunately, you will always come across clients that will want a program that is reminiscent of Ogilvy’s Hopenhagen campaign for the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP15) in Copenhagen. This pro bono campaign was a goliath that had global advertising, public relations, social media and marketing support.
We all want our pro bono accounts to be a great success, and they can be if we set realistic expectations with our clients. So don’t be shy, remind your pro bono clients that you’re working on a predetermined budget. They’ll surely understand your limitations, for they work within these budgetary restraints themselves, especially if they are non-profits.
Sometimes achieving your goals means raising money for the cause. This is when you should get creative. Look for partners, utilize social media, network and innovate.
A great example of this is the We Can Be Heroes initiative, which is a pro bono project implemented by DC Entertainment to support Save the Children, IRC and Mercy Corps. Besides having a great name and a website adorned with famous superheroes, We Can Be Heroes utilized indiegogo, a crowdfunding website, to raise $50,000 for starving people in the Horn of Africa. The idea was simple: raise money by selling available merchandise. After just two days, they reached their goal and ultimately ended up raising $152,951.
3. Be Efficient
Wouldn’t we all like to reach our goals within two days? The way to that kind of success is efficiency. Efficiency comes in many forms; it comes through conducting research, being organized, streamlining communications and having a strategic plan.
Most importantly, efficiency helps you meet your goals. When our nonprofit pro bono client, The American Friends of the Phelophepa Train, launched its first-ever Eye Clinic Donation Drive and Travel Sweepstakes, it wanted to not only raise money to fund the purchase of a large stockpile of eye glasses for rural villagers in South Africa, but it also wanted to increase its social media audience by at least 25 percent. To be effective with our time and budget, we recommended a robust social media plan in order to increase their social media audience and simultaneously raise money for the donation drive.
Through blog posts (including our own BuzzLine series), social media-based pitches, social media sharing, tweets and Facebook posts, we were able to successfully increase Phelophepa’s Facebook likes by 205 percent as well as its Twitter following by 302 percent. Additionally, we helped increase Phelophepa’s website traffic by 109 percent and raised enough money for 2,240 pairs of eyeglasses.
Budget restraints may limit your options, but it doesn’t have to limit your creativity or efficiency. Don’t tell your clients what you can’t do. Instead, get creative and tell your clients what you can accomplish with the resources available. In the end, they’ll be happy for any successful assistance that you can provide.