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November 15, 2022 - By Hawke Media

The Benefits of Pro Bono Marketing and How to Get Started

Even though people generally regard the marketing world as all about dollars and cents, plenty of great promotional campaigns were designed free of charge. Pro bono marketing is easy to get involved with, and offers benefits for the marketer, not just the client receiving free help. 

What Is Pro Bono Marketing

Marketing scholar David S Waller defines pro bono marketing practices as “the provision of creative, production, and/or media placement services by agencies to community or non-profit organizations at a reduced or no fee.”

Although is most commonly practiced as a form of non-profit marketing, a wide range of organizations, from innovative mission-based startups to worthy political candidates, might be eligible for pro bono work. For-profit businesses that want to pursue charitable marketing should capitalize on free public relations techniques to reach out to audiences at little to no cost.  

Why You Should Do It 

In addition to benefitting a worthy client, a pro bono campaign offers a great deal to the marketers who plan and execute it. Here are just a few reasons to consider performing free work for an important client with a meaningful message.

  • Hone your skill – Although pro bono marketing can be a good idea for marketers of all kinds and sizes, relatively inexperienced professionals and agencies should consider taking on key campaigns as a way to practice their craft in various important areas.
  • Build your portfolio – After finding success with specific pro bono campaigns, professionals and agencies can use them as powerful examples to show prospective paying clients.
  • Build your professional network – Pro bono work is a great way to establish and strengthen important connections, find mentors, and/or accumulate recommendations of tremendous professional value.
  • Allow for experimentation and risk-taking – The relatively lower stakes of a pro bono campaign make it far less risky to work in new fields, reach out to new audiences, and try new marketing strategies.
  • Further important causes – Marketers can use pro bono campaigns as a highly effective way to support missions with which they are aligned.

How to Get Started

Since pro bono work is most commonly associated with non-profit marketing, social impact strategy is fundamental to the practice. Stressing the importance of planning, we suggest brainstorming relevant causes, setting clear campaign goals, developing brand-consistent messaging, and setting campaign dates as the first key steps in the social impact campaign process.

While many clients seeking pro bono work will reach out to marketing professionals and agencies directly, there are many ways for marketers to initiate a pro bono partnership themselves. You might want to try:

  • Reach out directly to a non-profit or charity that you admire. Most organizations will listen quite responsively to offers of free services.
  • Set up a pro bono award program for marketers. Agencies that support pro bono award programs give professionals the opportunity to work with any number of motivated applicants.
  • Get connected through a non-profit agency. The non-profit Ad Council is one of several large organizations that can connect worthy charitable causes with marketers who want to use their talents to make a positive difference.
  • Network with people who have aligned interests. Anyone who shares specific elements of your professional expertise or charitable concerns may be able to connect you with meaningful pro bono marketing work.

Nobility in Marketing

Pro bono projects can be incredibly valuable and rewarding to clients and marketers alike if they are approached with the creative rigor and comprehensive nature of a paid campaign. In short, the outreach tools and marketing resources of a good pro bono campaign should be identical to those of a good, paid campaign. Provide your pro bono clients with the exact right mix of marketing analysis and consulting, copywriting, email and social media outreach, graphic design, video production, search engine optimization, and general CRM management. 

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