Donation Work: When to Say Yes … Or No

Guest Blogpost by Laura Wallace, Owner and Creative Director, Worx Graphic Design, based in Hagerstown MD. Laura is a branding expert, author and speaker.

We’ve all heard it 100 times. “Could you design this ______ for me? We don’t have a budget but you’ll get tons of visibility!” You go from intense excitement about the project to an immediate shoulder slump. The project sounds amazing and you want to be part of it, but do you have the time and resources available to donate your design abilities? It’s a tough place to be when you want to give back and donate your time but aren’t sure if it’s the right timing or fit for your company to be involved. We’ve spotted a few key triggers to deciding whether this is the right donation project to accept or not:

Does it align with your company morals and values?

When thinking about the project, organization or purpose, do those items align with your company’s core values? Are you investing in a movement or higher purpose that you can get behind and stand for? Do you feel like the subject matter betters your team? These are all great questions to consider before donating your time. On the flip side, if you answer no to any or all of these, you’ll want to consider referring this organization to another design firm.

Do you have time? Like, real time.

When looking at their deadline and your current schedule, do you and your team realistically have enough time to work on the project? Are you going to be maxing out your team’s time and abilities by taking this on, causing other projects to slip? Timing is everything. Make sure you’re able to give your all.

Have you set a total amount of donation hours or projects you’ll accept a year?

It can be helpful to set a maximum amount of time you’ll invest in community or non-profit donation projects each quarter or year. This can help you avoid saying yes to every amazing mission-based project that comes your way while giving you the flexibility to give back.

Is it a hell yes or do you feel obligated?

When thinking about this project, do you and your team get excited? Is this something that is moving, touching or meaningful that tugs at your heartstrings? Do you feel empowered and excited to invest time with this organization for the next 3-6 months? Or are you feeling like you’re backed into a corner and “have” to do this? It’s important to feel connected to the projects you’re donating to, so you don’t get burnt out before you even begin.

There may be a ton of projects that you want to get involved in but simply aren’t able to give away that much time. Consider offering a non-profit or community-based discount to those organizations. It allows you to still be compensated for your time while giving back to your community. Also consider breaking their investment into extended payments that are agreed upon in your initial contract.

It’s important to treat every donation project like a paid one, setting goals, timelines and having regular communication with the client. If they’re asking you to invest in them they need to invest in you, too. Always have a signed contract signed (for more on this topic we consult #MattTheLawyer) and with a list of services you’ll provide, including standard design rates, so they can see the value in your services. Provide timelines and set expectations for what they can expect from you. And most importantly, give 100% into the projects that you’re committed to.