For the public good - Eight Inc.

For the public good

By Jeff Straesser Sep 10, 2015

For many not-for-profit organizations, the ability to grow, meet programming goals and create awareness is a challenge. They rely heavily on a community of supporters and the relationships that they form. A common way to seek assistance is for the not-for-profit organization to request Pro Bono services from a for-profit company.  In this model, the recipient, the donor and the employees are equally rewarded.

From the perspective of the not-for-profit organization receiving such services, it allows them to increase the number of individuals in need that they reach or help.  For example, a not-for-profit legal organization may have a $100,000 annual budget of which 10% is administrative and overhead, 15% is fundraising and 75% is programming.  With only $75,000 for programming left, the resources for the community become limited.  However, at the end of the year, Pro Bono contributions might equate to almost $500,000– bringing the actual program budget to $575,000 — allowing more people to be helped and the public good is served.

For the donor providing Pro Bono services, the entire company can benefit.  An experience design firm is able to support the not-for-profit with their professional services, ensuring that programming goals are met to enable growth.  With our work for the the education based not-for-profit organization DonorsChoose.org, Eight Inc. provided a complete set of Pro Bono design services, from site selection and planning through construction administration. Through this work, the benefits became tangible: long-lasting relationships were formed with the community, designers were challenged to think in new ways and developed authentic human connections that resonated on a personal level. When there is the human and emotional connection with the not-for-profit and the people supporting it, the result is that much more powerful.

Providing these Pro Bono services came with a unique set of built-in challenges.  As a charity, the new DonorsChoose.org offices needed to be extremely cost efficient while appealing to staff, visiting potential donors and board members. The tight budget was viewed as a obstacle to be overcome rather than a creative hinderance. We explored new and challenging portions of the design process; sourcing and soliciting donated construction materials and design-build site construction work. Additionally, the Pro Bono nature of the design work was internally challenging as the project team learned to manage the additional work load by using their limited time to make decisions efficiently and produce a lean but complete construction drawing set.

By over-coming these limitations for DonorsChoose.org, the rewards far outweighed the challenges. The project became a learning opportunity for junior staff to exercise more project engagement; presenting, client interaction, and on-site construction supervision. Energized by the DonorsChoose.org’s mission and by utilizing their talent to create brand moments (Chalkboard, Hopscotch and Felt Art), the design team helped to express the organization’s personality in a clear and honest way. At the end of the project, the design team was happy, knowing that their creative input and labor was appreciated and highly valued by the entire DonorsChoose.org office staff.

As for the benefits to DonorsChoose.org, Carolina Martin, Senior Vice President, Partnerships and Business Development says, “With an office space created by Eight Inc, we have a place to host our partners, welcome teacher volunteers, and host events that allow us to raise more dollars for classrooms in need. As a lean non-profit, we focus on putting funding back into classrooms and would never have the ability to hire a designer to make such an incredible space that affords us these opportunities. With Eight Inc.’s generosity, we have an office that reflects our mission and reminds our team of what we are working towards every day.”

The need for Pro Bono work will always exist as long as there is public need. If a company has the budget and resources to participate, the benefits are immense and aid in further developing a company and their staff.  In this way, Pro Bono pays.

Jeff Straesser is a Studio Director in Eight Inc's New York studio