When this ad agency came together to design creative advertising pro bono for Taproot, they left feeling creative, inspired, and excited by the impact on their community.
The conversation always goes something like this:
Me: I’m volunteering for the Taproot Foundation.
Me: Taproot. They help nonprofits [insert Taproot Foundation elevator pitch here].
Them: Wow, that’s really cool. I’d like to do something like that.
I was having one of these conversations with my creative team at LIFT Agency one morning, and I realized that here I was, talking to Taproot’s target audience, and yet no one was familiar with what Taproot does. It didn’t take long for all of us to agree: We could do something about this.
LIFT Agency approached the San Francisco Taproot Foundation office with a proposal to create a digital advertising campaign with the objective of recruiting designers for pro bono projects. They were interested. And we were off.
Challenges and rewards
Anyone who’s worked at an agency knows the drill. Late nights. Tight timelines. Shuffling schedules. Adding a pro bono advertising project on top of it all can seem daunting, especially when there’s always client (a.k.a. paid) work to be done.
But for us at LIFT, the rewards were worth it:
- It’s fulfilling. We take great pride in our work, especially when it benefits our city. We heart San Francisco
- It’s challenging. Convincing busy creatives to do something for free isn’t easy. Being challenged helps us focus and find new creative solutions.
- It’s refreshing. Working on something different, something we don’t do every day, helps create new perspectives and spur new ideas for other projects. At the end of the day, all our clients benefit.
Creating ads for creatives
After a few morning brainstorm sessions over coffee (and a few more afternoon sessions over wine), we realized that in order to meet our goal, getting our peers to take action, we needed creative advertising that motivated, educated, and rewarded. We decided to focus on the nonprofits themselves to show how rewarding a project could be. After all, you aren’t necessarily volunteering for Taproot: you’re helping a local nonprofit that in turn is helping out locals. We also kept the messaging short and to the point since these ads would mainly run in social channels.
As with any project, things can come up that have the potential to derail timelines. This is especially true for pro bono work. Unforeseen or uncontrollable circumstances can quickly push a pro bono project to the bottom of the to-do list.
We learned a few things along the way that helped us stay on track:
- Communication is key. This is an obvious one, but keeping the client in the loop will help set expectations. Even bad news is better than no news.
- Be realistic. It’s hard to say no to a project that benefits a good cause. But it’s not good for anyone if you overpromise and under deliver. Determine in advance how much time and resources you’re able to offer.
- Have fun. This is an important one. The best work comes out of an engaged, excited and empowered creative team.
Pro bono isn’t free work. It’s priceless work. We benefited from the project just as much as Taproot and the nonprofits did.
About LIFT Agency: Ian Young is a Creative Director at LIFT and has completed four Taproot Foundation service grants in San Francisco. LIFT is an integrated marketing agency that delivers better marketing performance in today’s hyper-connected world. Learn more at wearelift.com.