Agency Leaders Discuss Realities of Pro-Bono Work

8 months ago

Pro-bono work has been a hot topic amongst agency leaders this week

Agency Leaders from various agencies around the UK recently came together to discuss their candid opinions about pro-bono work.

The professionals took an online forum to share their thoughts and experiences with pro-bono work. Pro-bono, which means ‘for the public good’, work is often offered by agencies to charities or other nonprofit organisations – but many leaders have different approaches to how they view this kind of work.

With some sharing that they have done pro-bono work in the past, only to be overlooked when it came to paid work and others saying that they only support community groups in this way, it was definitely an interesting discussion to have.

One agency founder with over a decade worth of experience was quick to highlight their mixed feelings on the topic. They noted that their agency is generally a no on this, but has occasionally granted freebies to clients but has been left disappointed by lack of acknowledgment or value over time.

Sharing their experience with a charity they said: “I’ve found that often when working for free or a discount, it’s valued at first then quickly gets forgotten. We did a bunch of work for a charity a few years ago, including fixing their site when they were hacked and building them a new one, and when a chief exec was hired we got forgotten and weren’t asked to tender for the new website. It was a real shame.”

They also noted that they know charities have to graft a bit to get things done cheap and quick and that little loyalty is placed on the agency saying: “Maybe there is something in the fact that the hard work that we do isn’t seen by the client.”

When you are trying to help people and give away stuff you charge others thousands for, it’s quite disheartening when they don’t respond to emails

Another agency leader had a slightly different view on the topic – their team reserves pro-bono work for community groups and individuals with limited resources. They do this mostly to help with team training and development to help staff gain experience in more senior roles that they may not otherwise get with high profile clients and to help fill holes in the agency portfolio. The agency also offers discounts of up to 20% for non-profits and charities.

A third person agreed with the previous argument, saying that they had struggled to work with charities in the past due to not being taken seriously. They said: “When you are trying to help people and give away stuff you charge others thousands for, it’s quite disheartening when they don’t respond to emails, or give you assets or sort out website issues. We stopped working for free after a few years of it.”

One person shared that after struggling with the same issues, they started just donating cash to charities instead of offering pro-bono work.

Where do you stand on the pro-bono debate? Do you think agencies are under-appreciated when offering free work?

Join 3,000+ agencies

Get the Agency Hackers Newsletter, and read candid stories from other agency leaders.