Why Non-profit Design Should Be Free

It's expensive to run a millennial non-profit. We want things to be faster, bolder, and more inclusive -- which usually means a costly emphasis on design, transparency and impact assessment. Today, non-profits rely on an army of experts outside of their organizations to bring their work to life. It takes a village.

But what if we inhabited a world in which every service provider gave half of their work away for free? Matthew Manos, founder of verynice, a design and innovation consultancy that commits 50 percent of its efforts toward pro-bono service, is pioneering a global, small business movement to do just that.

Why? Every year non-profit organizations spend an insane $8 billion on marketing and design in the U.S. alone. (Experts estimate that just $11 billion could solve the worst of the global water crisis.)

As the Executive Director of a non-profit organization that commits 100 percent of public donations to field projects, I'm an expert at getting things for free. But the pressure of pro-bono complicates a working relationship, often over-emphasizing the value received by the non-profit, making things like edits and deadlines painful (if not impossible) to enforce.

verynice's mission is simple: alleviate expenses for non-profit organizations. But as simple as it sounds, sustaining a business with such an "extreme" commitment to pro-bono hasn't been such a walk in the park... until now.

On Monday night I downloaded Manos' new book, "How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free." Inspired by the impact verynice's model has had on service-oriented business, Manos made the bold decision to completely open-source their method in order to fuel a new kind of pro-bono movement. The book is as beautiful as it is informative -- full of elegant illustrations by verynice designer Kate Slovin.

"In recent years, thousands of entrepreneurs from around the world have expressed how inspired they are by verynice's model. This inspired me to write my new book, "How to Give Half of Your Work Away for Free" which open-sources our business model and makes it easier for other service-providers to replicate our impact." -- Matthew Manos

Leveraging the Give-Half model, verynice has grown steadily for six years and has saved 250 non-profit organizations over $1MM. The organizations embracing their model include big names like NRDC and UNICEF. That $1MM that would have otherwise been spent on marketing? It's enough to provide tens-of-thousands of people with services like clean drinking water.

Manos has a healthy sense of irony. You can't write a book about giving your work away for free and then charge for it, right? As a result, the book is available for... you guessed it... FREE online at http://www.givehalf.co.

If you're a service provider interested in making an impact in the social sector, this is a must-read. If you're a non-profit interested in re-evaluating your service partnerships, it might just ruin you.

Social enterprise should build real value that gives back. Once you've worked with a Give-Half business, it's hard to justify working any other way.