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What are some places or areas where one could donate graphic design services for the greater good?

I don't really mean local not for profit organization, but more on a regional, national, or global scale. Local non-profits are often a specialized thing for a specialized (not always "needy" group).

I know I could hit my local Goodwill/Salvation Army and offer to volunteer my time. However, that would just be my physical presence not my expertise. I'm curious if there's a way to donate design services to large caregiving organizations. Something that would assist a global community rather than the company themselves.

Do you donate? How?

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By sharing your expertise on a community design forum. 40k rep is a rather big donation. –  John Dec 20 '13 at 14:51
@John is that tax deductible somehow? Gotta be a rep to $$ conversion algorithm somewhere out there... –  JohnB Dec 21 '13 at 6:07
Thanks John :) Not exactly what I was going for. :) –  Scott Dec 21 '13 at 8:08

3 Answers 3

I've helped a few organizations - some were ongoing, others were one off tasks.

Most of the organizations were from Idealist.org

The issue was complete lack of organization:

One organization posted looking for someone to design and send out their newsletter. They tell me they're interested and would be in touch. Next thing I know they're telling me I'm supposed to write all of it with no direction. I email them the job posting explaining that I can help design, distribute, list management but not writing. Told me she had the job posting confused, I guess they had two, and would get back in touch with me. Never heard from them again despite a few attempts to follow-up.

Another organization I was helping for a few months had regular face-to-face meetings. Most of the volunteers were either out of work or in college. They consistently changed the schedule at the last minute. Working full time and having other obligations I couldn't keep rearranging my life like that. The final straw was when I gathered some email addresses at a fundraiser I organizaed, asked the President if I should take care of them, she said she would and then she lost the list.

I've given up on the donate side. If I'm going to offer my services for free they could at least show some follow-through. I'd add that its the same if a friend / coworker / acquaintance asks for my help. I'm happy to help, but I'm not going to continue to email over and over to complete a project I'm not getting compensated for when the people running the organization don't even seem to care.

If you want to give it a shot though Idealist.org is the place to look.

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I've had some similar experiences: sadly it's often true that if they can't hire a designer, they'll often also not have the know-how on how to work with one. A good tip is to treat pro-bono work like any other job: have a signed contract formally scoping out what is and isn't included in the task, and expect to have to lead on writing this up. There's something about receiving work for free that makes certain people sloppy and unprofessional: anything that reminds them it's a (donated) real professional working relationship can help keep them on track. –  user568458 Dec 20 '13 at 10:24
@user568458 agreed. It is extremely often the case that we can work through design, that takes ages b´cos NGOs have a ludicrously democratic idea that everyone should agree on everything. A million iterations back and forth. They are even worse than ordinary clients in providing content. So, you risk getting into the content production, then you are truly stuck. Stick to your guns in I am not even going to PRETEND to make reasonable suggestions for content and headings. No matter what. Consistently stick to Lorem Ipsum or somesuch. Everywhere. Regardless.That said; it can be rewarding. –  Benteh Dec 20 '13 at 16:33
@boblet :-) I work mainly with NGOs voluntarily and professionally and yes that's a CONSTANT issue that MUST be pre-empted... For initial negotiations (yes, negotiate everything, even/especially free work), include something like "What is the sign-off process?" then "Who will be involved in the sign-off process?" then "What aspects will they be signing off based on what professional expertise/remit?" then "Please sign to confirm that revisions will only come from these people on the basis of these remits". It never works like that, but try... And yeah it's maddening... but on balance worth it –  user568458 Dec 20 '13 at 16:43

One way I give back is to offer designs for my church at no cost. Now this can be tricky because as you can imagine, a church has a LOT of needs graphically. Flyers for events, album covers, projection screen images, and announcements are just some of the things they need that I can think of off the top of my head.

If there is a new event or function, I will usually do the flyer design, projection screen image and website banner for them.

If you intend to claim your donations on your taxes, then I would suggest keeping tabs on the work you do and what the charge would have been for that labor.

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While a decent idea, this is a bit too localized. After all the work would only help that church and it's members, who may or may not be in need. –  Scott Dec 20 '13 at 17:48
up vote 2 down vote accepted

As a young designer I did several projects for a local non-profit whose mission was to convey anti-drug and alcohol message to schools. I created many posters and brochures for the organization at the time. The organization is not longer around, but I gained a great deal of real-world experience from the donation and the work was easily more memorable than many other projects I did at the time. I should note that I sought out the ability to donate, I didn't respond to any advertisement. Just my opinion, but I think this is a huge factor in a good relationship with the charity. Many legitimately in need charities wouldn't know where to start with advertising for design services volunteer. They simply know they need brochures, or a web site, or some other material.

A few ways I've found are to find a large human services or non-profit organization and, while you often can't donate at a national or international level, you can donate work on a local level. Most of these organizations are very happy to talk with you about how you can assist them locally.

A few places to look to help:

http://www.unicef.org/ (children)

http://www.redcross.org/ (disaster relief)

http://www.ifaw.org/ (animals)

http://www.goodwill.org/ (people)

Many places are set up for simple financial donations since this is easiest for most donors. However, if you contact a local or regional office you can often speak to someone about donating your services.

One great place to check is Grassroots.org. Grassroots specifically tries to match charities in need of specific services with those that can provide those services.

I, personally, try and avoid religion-based non-profit organizations for my own reasons, but that's an alternative if you care to go that way.

One thing to keep in mind, although you may be donating your services, you need to treat any project as a paying project with deadlines, scope definitions, and a pseudo budget to track. Otherwise things can get out of control rather quickly.

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