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I recently volunteered, not as a graphic designer, at a non-profit organization helping cancer patients but they knew I was major in graphic design.

Since they knew I was a graphic design major, they asked me to help them with their presentation board because they had an event coming up in 2 days. What they had was printed texts, some clip art pictures, and glued them on the board. I told them what I usually is design a poster on computer and print it out.

Because time was sensitive and it was my first project designing for a non profit organization without charge, I didn't think about writing a contract. I thought the project was just for that event.

After my poster was approved by them, I printed it out for them. Couple hours later after meeting with them and gave them the poster, I got an email from them asking for the pdf file of the poster and editable file for the future because they like it.

Personally, I'm very hesitate to give an editable file because it was my work.

From reading some articles about designing for non-profit on the website, a contract and invoice is needed to protect both parties, the designer and the organization/company. I assumed that my work was pro-bono for the organization.

Because I don't have contract with them, I want to know what is the best step I should take now? Would it be proper for me to give them an invoice with 100% discount now? Should I write a contract for them although i didn't presented at the first place?

The reason I want to write an invoice is because the design of the poster looks pretty simple and easy but I put 12 hours on it. They thought that I came up with the concept and the layout of the poster pretty easily, which wasn't true.

They also asked me to print another 2 posters for them. Which I'm a little hesitate because 13x19 epson matte paper and epson ink aren't cheap for me.

Any advice?

I don't want to look unprofessional! sigh

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    Note that 'non profit' really has little-to-no-bearing on anything else. Business is business. Whether you decide to give your work away for free or not is your decision and yours alone, and whether the company is a non-profit of not should have little bearing on that decision. (BTW, the easiest way to look unprofessional is to not charge for your work! :) – DA01 Apr 30 '15 at 5:23
  • Ok My invoice question is answered. Thank you so much everyone!! But I have another question. I'm thinking to give them a pdf file for the poster so they can print them self. Should or would it be right to give a letter of agreement before I give the pdf file? – Gunawanhere May 2 '15 at 3:10
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    Always have a contract (or even just a letter of agreement). Even if the final bill is $0 a contract stipulates what is expected of both parties. – DA01 May 2 '15 at 5:53
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According to my understanding of US Copyright law, (I am not an attorney) the artist owns the rights to all work except under 10 specific instances. Well, 11. The 11th being you agree to give away those rights. The other 10 items deal primarily with being an employee, audio/visual work, work for hire, tests, and parts of a "collection" (such as illustrations in a book or other similar items where the artists work is only a piece of the "whole").

More detailed answer about ownership here: https://graphicdesign.stackexchange.com/a/28014/3270

From your post nothing would seem to fall under these 10 items. So, you own the rights to your work. Whether or not you wish to relinquish those rights is your call.

Related questions:

Delivering a graphic design to a customer

How and when to transition from pro-bono to paid work, and how to ask to be paid?

Is it okay to attempt to retract pro bono work?

How do you explain the value of native files to an uneducated client?

If I were in this situation, I would politely explain that I donated one poster and the rights to use that poster. I am not donating unlimited printing, and native files for further editing. Relinquishing all copyrights to the work is more than I am comfortable donating. If they'd care to discuss pricing, I'd be happy to. (Non-profit does not mean "no money" although the organizations really want you to think it does.)

In the end, it is your donation and you determine what you will and will not give away. There is absolutely nothing "unprofessional" about explaining your rights and what you will and will not relinquish.


No part of this answer should be seen as legal advice.

  • Hi @Scott !! Thanks for responding so quickly! What do you think about giving them an invoice with 100% discount? will it be rude for me to do that? – Gunawanhere Apr 30 '15 at 0:45
  • It's fairly common to create an invoice and then discount it. This provides a tax record in addition to indicating the value of the services you've provided to the client. – Scott Apr 30 '15 at 2:48
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    Scott's answer is spot on. I'll just say that the discounted invoice for tax purposes is fairly useless in the US. Check with a CPA. – plainclothes Apr 30 '15 at 4:50
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    @Scott note that you can't write off free work--even if invoiced. So there isn't likely a tax aspect to the invoice. That said, sending an invoice can show the client that you do have value--even if you didn't charge them for it in this situation. – DA01 Apr 30 '15 at 5:25
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    The invoice merely shows records of the transaction and that an agreed upon amount was donated or worked on. It's more credible than simply stating a figure if you have client agreement to that figure. That's what I meant. Otherwise it's very difficult to explain a figure to an auditor if you have no record of the transaction. – Scott Apr 30 '15 at 8:18

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