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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

5 Answers 5

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

Most of the organizations were from

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 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: (children) (disaster relief) (animals) (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 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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The best way to give back as a designer is by:

Helping SMALL community projects and foundations

Unlike the Unicef and other big names who aren't anyway accepting the services of non-firm based designers (they have huge budgets), small community projects and foundations do need help to raise funds and have very limited budgets. In fact, most of their members are not even paid. The other issue with big foundation is the heavy bureaucracy, concours and paperwork; there's way more freedom with small community projects and foundations even though they also have their own administrative obligations.

Whats awesome with helping foundations that don't have much budget is they let us a lot of freedom for the design and they're always appreciative of the help we give them. Plus, it's fun. From my experience, these people are easy to deal with, reasonable and cry of joy almost every time you present them the first proofs. Smaller foundations will accept any help, even though it's less "prestigious"; it's still helping a cause and it's a good opportunity to create some that looks awesome. It's also nice material to add to a portfolio.

I love working with foundations. The ones I work with help teenagers and endangered species. There's tons of them and I help them with design but also their marketing for fund raising. I don't get "anything" from this since most of them are not located in my country, but I don't care, I work for the cause, increasing my network and the fun of having freedom in the design I create.

Creating a fund raising by giving rebates to your clients in exchange of donations

I organize at least 1-2 a year a little call to action for donations for the foundations I help. I encourage my clients to donate to these foundations and in exchange I personally give a rebate to the clients on their next projects, if they donated. This is a system that works very well.

Helping beginners and being nice with them

Some young people got talent, they got passion but they don't have a mentor, direction, money for their education or someone patient enough to help them start a career.

Helping people find their way in graphic design or as illustrator is an awesome way to give back. Artistic jobs are often despised by some parents or friends as being for "brainless" only; it's good to show to some motivated and skilled person that design is something they can live from, and be proud of their skills. Most of us probably once knew that one senior designer who gave us a chance, opened their professional network to us or taught us something we still use everyday; we can now be these guys.

Who are the most memorable mentors? The ones who didn't patronize us, the ones who were respectful, the ones who didn't constantly appeal to authority, the ones who didn't consider us morons for asking beginner's questions...!

(Not downvoting the poor beginners with a big 1 point reputation because they don't know the exact rules when asking questions... but explain them what's wrong instead :)

Bringing some fun in the world

Create, create, create and make people laugh! Crazy, grotesque or clumsy Photoshop montages and 'anti-pub' are easy to do and they bring a smile on people's face. Not global enough? Wrong. I still have some of my funny montages and .wav recording done almost 20 years ago still being shared online.

That's how I donate. I don't believe much in "big prestigious donations"; I think I have more impact in small actions instead.

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Donate to a public domain site like Open Clip Art at As a benefit, an artist can provide a blurb as well as promotional link per submission to his or her own site and services. For example, submit your Adobe Illustrator vector art, write a blurb that includes a description, your webpage address, your services, say, $40 an hour for Adobe Illustrator work. Now, an indie game creator or children's book author can download your submission for free. However, if they need more, (and they often do), for instance, a modification or animation sequence, they know how to contact you. Speaking personally, I needed cat outlines and silhouettes for a children's book but failed to find a stylistically consistent set. Also, I needed more emotionally evocative poses.

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I don't see why you got downvoted. Tons of designers here are quite happy with the free stuff from open source design and coding... even though they don't admit it. In fact, I'm too selfish and capitalist to offer my own free artwork online to be honest, but I admire people who do. Years ago, stock images cost hundreds of dollars ($600+) for a CD-Rom with 20-30 pictures; now there's photographers giving these images for free. People are lucky nowadays! So +1 – go-junta Aug 9 at 6:15

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