Assisting non-profit organizations with their web presence is an excellent way to lend a hand to groups that have limited budgets and involvement. Volunteering your time can provide you with development opportunities that are not always provided with paid employment. Lately, I’ve been researching options for offering my design services to companies that need help. I came across a lot of pros and cons to accepting these volunteer projects and whether working for free is detrimental to the role of a web designer.
Reasons Why You Should Volunteer
Volunteering your time not only makes you feel good, it helps make your community a better place. Helping to enrich the web design community is a rewarding experience that not only boosts your portfolio but also looks great on a resume. Non-profit organizations always need assistance – the Internet is a key source of the awareness they receive and the amount of donations they obtain. Projecting yourself as a motivated individual reflects well in any situation.
Improve Resume and Portfolio
Volunteering is a way to get hands-on experience with a client that may not be offered as a student or in your current employment position. Regardless of how you contribute, volunteering looks great on a resume. It proves you are passionate, motivated, a great team player and willing to help out causes that benefit the community. Especially in web design, it can be a great way to teach yourself something new and improve your skill set.
Meet New People with a Common Passion
Volunteering can help expose yourself to meeting new people with common goals and desires. Putting yourself in these positions can allow networking opportunities that may not have been possible before. Demonstrating your skills as a professional can land you future partners and paying clients.
Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Volunteer
There is a Fine Line Between What Should be Free Work and Volunteer Work
Accepting too many volunteer projects can be detrimental to your career. Making ends meet with paid projects should obviously be your first priority. Taking on too many projects in your spare time might allow clients to ask for reduce costs in design work. Don’t create misconceptions for future clients about how much your skills are worth. If an organization appears to have a lot of extra funding going towards having nice office space, etc. then working for free might not be a wise decision.
If you decide to take on a non-profit design, here are a few tips to remember when working with your organization:
Be Firm in Sticking to YOUR Schedule
Since your offering your services, on your time, they should be willing to accommodate to your schedule. The last thing you want to do is overload your schedule with too many projects and commit to engagements that you can’t fulfill. Just because you aren’t being compensated for your work, doesn’t mean you should put these projects behind all other client work.
Make Sure the Organization is Legitimate
Research who you will be working for. Picking an organization in your area is a good way to avoid this problem. It can be easy for an organization to look like a legitimate charity, but you can never be 100% sure where their funding is going.
Work with Genuine People
Most designers have all had their fair share of bad clients and having to deal with unwanted problems and headaches. Regardless of the fact that they are a non-profit, they should treat you as professionally as a normal client would. Assuming you would return the favour, you shouldn’t run into any problems supporting your charity.
Believe in the Cause
Choose a non-profit that you believe in. Working for a charity you have strong personal connections with will allow your experience to be liberating. A charity’s website is a strong reflection of their vision and goal. Not believing in the cause will not only reflect the charity badly, it will be a lot of wasted time on your part.
Volunteering your time in the web design industry can be different then volunteering for physical positions within a charity. This is again, why it is very important to pick the right organizations to work with. If you’re not sure whether or not you should donate your design skills, visit this website: Should I Work for Free? They are a great resource for determining whether you should be paid or not. If you agree to do volunteer work remember to be passionate about the organizations work by knowing their vision and goals and be aware of how much you are willing to commit to the project.