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It's time to get charitiable: Can Your Agency Win Working With Nonprofits?


Image from the Vermont Community Foundation

As a fledgeling agency, approaching local charities can be an excellent way to foster brand awareness, build your portfolio, and do a little good in the world. Non-profits are always running public campaigns to raise money and awareness, which means that they’re always in need of creative collateral and marketing savvy to get their projects off the ground.

Many agencies will offer non-profits, charities and schools a discounted rate on their services. Some might even work for free, as a way of supporting a cause they believe in. The organisation, in return, will help to promote the agency in their collateral, making sure their audience sees your branding.

So do you think working with a charity would be a great way to get the word out about your agency? Here’s a little tutorial on working with charities and non-profits at your agency.

What’s In It For You?

It seems a rather crass question to ask, but as an agency owner you need to assess every potential project - especially one where you may offer a discounted rate - in terms of your business goals.

There are many reasons why taking on a charity project could have a long-term benefit for your agency. These include:

  • A well-developed non-profit project in your portfolio will enable you to effectively pitch to other charitable organisation - many of which will have a larger budget.
  • Charity events and campaigns often attract a ton of media attention, and you will be able to share some of that spotlight.
  • You are able to further hone your branding by associating your name with prominent charities. For example, if your agency has an emphasis on being green, then working with environmental non-profits demonstrates that you are living your values.
  • Working on a worthwhile cause can help to unite your team and improve your workplace culture.
  • Doing positive stuff in your community is a genuinely good thing to do - it will make you feel awesome and it will help others to do good things in the world.

Think about your offerings

Now that you’ve decided you’re keen to give some non-profit work a go, you’ll need to have a think about what exactly you’d like to do. You may have a charity already in mind that you’d like to approach, or an annual event you’re involved in that you’d like to more actively contribute to. Or you may be starting completely from scratch.

First, decide on what you’re able to offer, as this will impact the organisations you target and the type of work you take on. Would you like to help in a rebrand, or simply contribute to the design work around an event. Would you like to offer a blanket discount to all qualifying charities who approach you, or are you thinking of extending an exclusive offer to one or two organisations you want to support?

Next, approach those charities you’re interested in working with. You might like to send a letter of introduction with some marketing materials introducing yourself and your agency. It can help to do a bit of sleuthing first, to make sure they’re not already working with an agency or what campaigns they have coming up.

I think the best way is to create a relationship with someone in the organisation first - usually through networking events. Charities are always holding events - why don’t you head along and see who you can meet?

Working with a Charity

Working with a charity is just like working with any other client. Run them through your regular onboarding process, come up with an idea that enhances their brand and speaks to their audience, and you should be fine. Don’t be afraid to pitch some wacky ideas - often, charities are more eager than corporate clients to try something outside the box.

Remember, just because you’re giving the charity a discount or free services, doesn’t mean you treat them differently from any other client. This goes both ways - just because the charity is receiving work from you at a discount, doesn’t mean they treat you any differently.

If they’re happy with the work you’ve done, ask if they can spread the word about your services to other people in the nonprofit sector. This is where it’s great to offer a small price cut for charities - you have a great incentive to give to your clients to help you promote your agency.

Has your agency ever done work for charities or nonprofits? What was the experience like?