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Guest Post: How to go from pro bono to corporate sponsor

Posted by Colleen Wainwright on

EDITOR’S NOTE: I’ve been immersed in Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Effective People lately, and one of the most significant lessons I’m getting from it is the benefit of striving for solutions that are not me-based or them-based or even compromises, but we-based, synergistic solutions.

That’s exactly what designer and Marketing Mentor client Jonathan Cleveland did to turn around a situation with a pro bono client. I loves me a win-win situation—and Covey would be proud! And now, here’s Jonathan…

A recent tip from Peleg changed my status from “in-kind” donor to Corporate Sponsor for a nationally recognized non-profit client. Here’s how it happened.

For over 6 years, my firm, Cleveland Design, has done work for this non-profit at a reduced fee, but the donated “time” has never gotten me much exposure, which is one of the reasons I did it. I was always stuck in the Thank You list next to the company that donated the napkins.

When I first approached the client about improving our status, they claimed they didn’t have a category to put us in since we weren’t making a cash donation. Eventually they came up with “Marketing and Design Sponsor,” which was better. But I kept seeing the other companies listed above us and I knew our time was more valuable then the cash they were donating.

Peleg’s tip was simple: Invoice the client for the full value of the project, then turn around and write them a check for the portion you want to donate.

I approached the client with this plan and they were open to investigating it with their higher ups and legal department. Because this client is on a retainer with us, it was easy to set up a contract to reflect what we would bill them each month and what we would donate each month. Soon, the contract was signed by both parties and we automatically became an official “Corporate Sponsor.”

This way of giving is beneficial to all parties, and gives us the advantage of being a major donor and recognized as a Corporate Sponsor. It also gives us an advantage for tax purposes, since donated time does not count for charitable gifts, but donated cash does.

Plus, being seen as a Corporate Sponsor has changed our status in the community that this non-profit serves. At past fundraising events, we were invited but had to wait and see if there were empty seats at the assigned dinner tables. Now, we get one of the prime tables up front and our logo is plastered all over the promotional collateral and signage.

This is now the only way we will work with non-profits in the future. It gives us the recognition we deserve for our talent and time. And, it turns into great free publicity for our firm.

  • More in: Guest Mixers, Posts by Colleen, Self-Promotion, Success Stories

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