As a non-profit and/or social enterprise, you may feel like you’re constantly chasing the next dollar, pound, euro (you get the idea) but what if you didn’t have to spend the money in the first place? And not only, did you not have to spend the money but you got more value by not spending it?
Sounds crazy, right?
I’m talking about the often overlooked and undervalued world of pro bono and in-kind support.
But what is pro bono? Pro bono is shortened from the Latin “pro bono publico” meaning “for public good”. When someone does something pro bono they’re contributing their professional skills or services for free. It’s also often referred to as “in-kind” which can refer to donations of services, as well as goods.
Maybe you’re considering which is the best of an average bunch of marketing agencies/consultants to help you with your campaign because they fit within your tiny budget?
Or you’re delaying finalising some important documents that could make the difference to thousands of people because you require a lawyer and there’s no budget for expensive legal fees?
Or maybe you’re looking to provide expert support to the community you work with but don’t have the funds to recruit more staff or pay consultants or contractors?
The solution – pro bono or in-kind support…
There’s no end to the possibilities for pro bono/in-kind support. If a company provides the service or product, there’s always the chance of getting it for free (normally in return for something…see more below).
Some of the benefits of pro bono/in-kind partnerships include:
- Saves money.
- Reduces the money you need to raise and/or frees up money to use for other things.
- You can access highly skilled professional support and/or services at no cost.
- Can lead to other support, including turning into financial partnerships and/or access to new networks/contacts.
- Can help to raise your profile. Often companies doing things pro bono like to promote it.
But where to start…
- Look at your budget. What do you spend your money on? You may at first think “there’s no support for this.” You’ll be surprised.
- Who do you know? Friends, family, board members etc.
- Who have you not asked?
- When holding an event, or launching a new project or campaign, what do you need and who might be able to support you as part of a pro bono/in-kind partnership?
- There are some websites that connect companies with charities for in-kind donations so it’s worth doing a bit of a search online. It’s also worth checking company websites where they might mention product donations etc.
- What can you offer in return? Be clear on this. As with funding requests, it’s a good idea to create a simple proposal that you can send, which includes the potential benefits on offer to them.
- Use your newsletter/social media etc. to ask your supporters. Is there something or some things you are looking for in particular? You may be surprised what comes up!
- Never be afraid to ask. Remember, you’re not asking for you but for a good cause. Plus, you’re also offering something in return.
- If it’s a no, but you still need what they are selling, ask for a discount.
Things to keep in mind before approaching someone for support
- As with funding, you’ll want to consider if you’re happy to receive support from the company. Are they a good match? Have they received negative press recently? And if so, why? Could it damage your brand?
- Don’t promise the world in return for something small. If it was a cash donation to the same value, what would you normally do for a donor?
- Remember it’s a two-way relationship.
Just like with financial donations, make sure to say thank you. Create a partnership agreement so it’s clear what both parties have agreed to do and make sure to uphold your side of the deal.
Also, remember to follow-up at the end of the partnership to get feedback, find out about future opportunities etc. This could be the first step to a long and rewarding partnership for you both.
Where possible try to put a financial value on the support you received. This is a good measure to use in reports to show the value of the relationship beyond “we got X for free…”. Also, increasingly funders are acknowledging pro bono and in-kind support in project budgets so if you’ve got the support it’s good to be able to show it. Remember to make sure you can justify how you reached the figure you use!
And finally, remember…
“If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”
Need some support?
Do you have any questions about pro bono, in-kind support or other areas of fundraising? If so, I’d love to hear from you. You can contact me here.
Or perhaps your non-profit or social enterprise is in need of some expert support in another area, such as communications, evaluation or projects? Find out more on how I can help you here.