Pro Bono work. Is it a do or don’t?

With more time on my hands these days, I’ve been socializing just a little bit more.

Recently, at an industry event I reconnected with a former classmate who suggested we do a pro bono project together. It’s something I’ve previously considered, but never done.

While thinking if I should take this opportunity on,  I casually mentioned it to design mates and noticed something interesting…when other industry professionals hear you’re doing a pro bono project, they seem to have strong negative reactions and question the motivation. The feedback was unexpected, so it got me thinking about why people weren’t jumping on the chance to help another out.

Other than snarky comments and odd looks, below are questions my design mates most frequently asked;

  • why put the effort in, it’s not like you’ll be paid?
  • how much time will it take? it’s probably too much time.
  • what’s the benefit to me personally? everyone wants something.

Who knew giving back would cause such a stir. After all, isn’t good design better when It can be appreciated by the masses?! But when the masses aren’t experiencing it,  it can be equally satisfying to see  your design  shape and change a person’s life. In this case, the latter is the driving force.

After discussing and thinking about pro bono work generally, I’ve decided that there are some important factors to consider before embarking on one such project;

  • Right Opportunity? (for you personally, at this time , type of project etc).
  • Anticipated time committment? (everything takes longer than expected!)
  • Benefit to you? (what are you hoping to gain from this experience? personal satisfaction, publicity etc.)

After thinking about these  and other factors, if you decide to move forward with a pro bono project here are some tips- make sure to set clear expectations from the start. Make sure the client and all contractors and all other parties involved are aware of the anticipated timeline.  The more organized you, as the designer, are and the more creative you are with the budget, the better. Be prepared to treat this project as you would any other. It will be hard work and time consuming, pro bono or not.

My hope with this project, is to create the best space I can to help improve functionality and usability for a person in need.  Plus I’ll be working with a fantastic designer and counter part, so It’s guaranteed to be a fun experience!

Stay tuned for progress as we get started and work through this project. .

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