April 2017

Nonprofits and agencies have different missions.

On pro bono projects especially, their interests align badly.

Pro bono work is a gift, but you’re the client. Do your part and your agency will do theirs.

You Want This, They Want That

Nonprofits need donations of cash, supplies and materials and they often need volunteers. They want to create awareness among their populations. Agencies want really cool stuff in their portfolios that shows two things:

  • How creative they are
  • Their support for your cause

Creative that fulfills the agency’s goals need not have any actual value for the nonprofit. An agency doesn’t mean to take advantage of a nonprofit, but when interests differ, they tend to choose their own. They aren’t bad guys. Their hearts are in the right place. They’re just on a different mission.

It’s Your Bus, Drive It

It is possible to get good pro bono creative. You have to do the preparatory work and you need to retain control of the project. Here’s how to get the work you want:

Spend time with the agency executive who decides what pro bono work the agency takes. Ask three things:

  • How committed is that particular executive to your particular mission and values? Follow your instinct. If this person is truly committed, they’ll use their influence to get you the work you want. But...
  • Is the creative director in charge of your project answerable to this executive? If your executive doesn’t have power over the creative team, find out who does. Make sure this person is also on board with your mission.
  • What happens if, at any stage, you don’t like the work presented? You don’t want to waste your time or the agency’s on work you can’t use. Find out now how much control you will have in the process.

Ask for a brief call with your assigned creative director. Ask that person how important your mission and values are to them. Don’t expect too much: They didn’t choose this job. But any buy-in you can get will help eliminate useless concepts and executions before they’re presented to you. This prevents awkward situations.

Start the project off right. Advertising is about getting people to do something. The creative team understands this and they’re good at it. In the kickoff meeting, make sure they’re clear on these five things:

  • Product: What you do and who you do it for.
  • Audience: Who’re you talking to with this campaign.
  • Message: The one or two facts you want your audience to hear.
  • Action: The particular action you want your audience to take.
  • Deliverables: The mediums or marketing pieces you want.

There’s more, but your account person will get that information from you and put it in a brief. You’ll get to review and approve the brief before work starts.

Be clear. Creatives love clarity. Tell them exactly what you expect. Answer their questions fully.

Speak up. Any time you’re asked your opinion about something, say clearly and honestly what works well and what doesn’t. Creatives want to hear both the good and the bad. Keep an open mind, but say no when you need to.

The Three Cs

Commitment. Clarity. Control. Your agency needs to commit to your mission and values. Everyone needs to be clear. You need to retain control over the final product.

Featured Recipe



Start early in the day. Better yet, start the day before. Cassoulet is better after it sits a while.

Duck and pork are common in cassoulet, but sausages work just fine. Or put in ham, chicken, smoked turkey, etc. All you need is 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of pork, fowl or lamb, some of it spiced or smoked.

Use a large pot that can go in the oven (6 quart is good). You also need cheesecloth and string or a bouquet garni ball.

2 1/2-3 pounds Sausages (chorizo, Andouille and Italian work well; use a variety)
1 tablespoon Oil
2 Onions
5 Tomatoes
1 Apple
3 cans White beans (any kind will do)
1 1/2 cup Chicken broth
3 tablespoons Tomato paste
1 teaspoon Sage
1/2 teaspoon Thyme
1/4 teaspoon Black pepper
1/8 teaspoon Ground clove
1/8 teaspoon Ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon Nutmeg
pinch Coriander
pinch Cardomom
6 cloves Garlic
1 Bay leaf
1 tablespoon Rosemary (I use whole; use 1 1/2 teaspoons ground)
1 Carrot
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Chop the onion.
Chop the tomatoes.
Core and chop the apple
Chop the carrot.
Bundle the garlic, bay, rosemary and carrot in cheescloth or the bouquet garni ball.
Heat the oil in the pot.
Brown the sausage in the oil. A little crust adds nice texture.
Remove the browned sausage.
Sauté the onion.
Add the tomatoes.
Sauté the tomatoes until soft.
Cover the pot and put it in the oven.
Heat an hour.
Remove the stew from the oven, stir and let sit covered for fifteen minutes.
Remove the bouquet garni bundle.
Reheat with microwave, oven or stovetop.