Most web creatives seem to do at least some of their work for non-profits, some of whom we approach and some who approach us. There’s no fixed schedule, and the agreements reached can be anything from full-price projects to completely free builds of very complex sites. While the budget you have is important, much of that variability comes from things that actually won’t cost your organisation anything, but depend on what other value the web creative you approach sees in building a site for you.
We’ve put together a few key things that we love to see, which make us get excited and want to give our time to non-profits.
- Share your enthusiasm. If you believe in your cause, tell your website creative all about it straight off, especially if it’s a new cause or they aren’t familiar with what you do. Make sure you sell it passionately, but not in an unrealistic way – if you aim to establish a new global government and save the world, at least admit it’s a ten year goal! If the web creatives believe in your vision, they’ll want to help on a personal level and will be much more open to other compromises. You can do this in your initial approach by phone or email, and hopefully it will capture their imagination.
- Creative freedom is highly valued by creative people. Sometimes your best shot for getting a site done on a small budget is finding someone who already has a fantastic plan that they want to put into action, or something new they want to learn or try. There are also creatives who will take on projects for non-profits in order to enter specific competitions, sometimes with entry requirements that can affect the end result. Offering the person you want to work with a chance to do something in a way that they are motivated and excited about, instead of being constrained by the usual commercial briefs and spec plans, can get you a lot more value than simply expanding your budget. This can come with a compromise on how much control you retain, so it’s up to you how far you’re willing to go with this.
- Think of what else you can offer. The primary reason web creatives do cut-price jobs for non-profits is the hope that they will be helping make positive change by working with you. However, there are many non-profits out there wanting work done, so think of ways you could sweeten the deal and make the creative choose you – like including the creative’s brand as a sponsor on the site, offering to vouch for them to potential commercial clients, or just being really friendly, positive and respectful, and becoming their favourite client from the beginning.
- Be clear about your financial resources up front. Once you get someone’s interest, the web creative will engage with you because they genuinely want to help. They know you’re a non-profit and aren’t expecting to be wowed by your budget, but there will still be limits to what they will do, and these limits are different for everyone depending on their employment and personal situation, as well as the stage they’re at in their career. If you let them know what you can offer financially straight off the bat (even if it’s literally nothing at this stage), they can go down the right track from the start. You really can start building your web presence for nothing, and just the time your web creative spends with you at an initial meeting might be enough to get you going with that and establish some long-term goals for working with them in the future.
- Even if web creatives become passionate about your cause, making a website is still ‘work’. It’s likely that your web creative has other projects on and will be trying to fit non-profit projects around them, and you may need to be patient and prepared to compromise on time-lines while they take care of existing commitments. Also, while you might work nights and evenings for your non-profit organisation, chances are your web creative has tried to create boundaries between work and home time, especially if they’ve ever been freelance. Seeing that they’re online late at night and starting social network chats about work is not likely to go down well, unless you’ve established that’s their schedule too. Late-night or weekend texts and phone calls about non-urgent stuff can also be a fast way to become one of their least favourite clients.
- Try and have fun with it. The kind of fun where you relax a bit, take a few risks, try new things, listen to each others’ stories, and work with your web creative towards achieving something you’re both passionate about. If you can get this last one right and get a really good rapport with you web creative (and it probably won’t happen straight off), making a site for your organisation could become more than just ‘work’ to them and normal work considerations (pay, hours, etc) become much less important. If it goes really well you might gain someone who becomes a valuable member of your non-profit organisation and is there for you 24/7 through years of growth, giving you amazing websites and great advice – hell, you might even make a new friend.
At the end of the day, the agreement you make with a potential web partner can vary hugely, and you may have to say no (and be prepared to hear no) in the early stages in order to find a good fit. What you choose to compromise on or see as essential is unique to your organisation, and trying to find someone who understands your goals, and whom you can understand in turn, should lead to a productive partnership.