Pro Bono Design and Communications Resources for Nonprofits

Last month, Discovery Communications announced a new initiative, Discovery Impact: Creating Change, a 12-hour “marathon” event planned for mid-December, when the company’s employees lend their talents and resources to local nonprofits in need of marketing, communications and other creative services.

Creating Change was created as a continuation of Discover Your Impact Day, the company’s global volunteerism day launched in June 2010, when Discovery celebrated its 25th anniversary. More than 3,000 employees in Discovery’s 40 worldwide offices donated their time to more than 150 community projects, such as cleaning up parks or volunteering at animal shelters.

Nonprofit organizations that are interested in being a part of Discovery’s pro bono design and communications event have until October 22 to submit an application outlining their creative needs, which can range from social media training to logo design.

The idea of helping nonprofits to communicate their stories of environmental or social impact is inherently benevolent. Here are a few of the top resources:

1. Similarly to Discovery Communications, other companies are offering free services on a grant-by-grant basis. For example, NavigationArts, a Web consultancy, is accepting grant applications until November 30. Likewise, Firebelly Design offers an annual Design + Marketing Grant to local Chicago nonprofits in need.

2. Sometimes it’s all about making the right connections. Designism Connects pairs creatives who want to donate their time and talent with non-creatives who need help articulating their environmental and social causes. Other sites, while not exclusively for the design community, serve similar functions, like Catchafire, which hooks up professionals for volunteer projects at nonprofits and social enterprises; Kickstarter, which matches creative projects to funders; Skillshare, a soon-to-be-launched resource that allows anyone to barter their knowledge and skills; and VolunteerMatch, an online directory of volunteers who want to lend their time and nonprofits who need the free labor.

3. Tap into the Taproot Foundation for assistance with overall marketing, which the foundation recognizes will “strengthen your ability to communicate with key stakeholders and fundraise effectively.” A list of available service grants include those that cover visual identity and brand strategy, brochures, annual reports and websites.

4. Consider yourself lucky to participate in a “Social Impact Lab“ hosted by global innovation and design consultancy IDEO. (Better World Books was one recipient of IDEO’s pro bono assistance, highlighted as a case study in this How-To Guide.) If you can’t score an in-person session, don’t forget to check out IDEO’s open-source guide to designing for social impact, “Human Centered Design Toolkit,” created specifically for NGOs and social enterprises.

5. Design Reaction collects “user-submitted socially, politically, and environmentally conscious poster designs for non-profit use through the Creative Commons copyright license.” Browse posters for free download here.

6. “So much about design is the will to make something happen, and so much about nonprofit organizations is the will to make things better,” said Ed Schlossberg, a founding committee member of desigNYC. “We thought that by putting those two together, we would really create an opportunity for everyone to have a better experience. So that’s what we did.” The program, founded in 2009 and incubated at ESI Design, aims to improve the lives of New Yorkers through the power of pro bono design. Pilot projects include a “green guide” for a public housing development, a new website for a neighborhood street festival, and an identity and style guide for the Bronx River Alliance.

7. Local pro bono design studios and volunteer initiatives can offer hometown help. See these examples: Probonafide (Washington, D.C.), Joey’s Corner (San Francisco), and Design Marathon (Charlottesville, N.C.).

8. Strapped for cash? Apply for grant funding. Clothing company Nau sponsors a Grant for Change, awarding $10,000 to “designing for positive change.” And Sappi’s Ideas that Matter gives money to designers who want to contribute their talents to charitable activities.

Do you know of any other pro bono opportunities and resources? Submit them here or respond in the comments.