Pro Bono Work – Are You Making Your Business an Accidental Charity?

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It was against her better judgment, but June really wanted to help her prospect.

He seemed like a nice guy who’d had some hard knocks, and just needed a little boost to get back to his former glory.  He wasn’t exactly in her wheelhouse, but she thought she could make a big difference for him nonetheless.

Imagine her surprise when the person she was trying so hard to help turned out to be picky, argumentative, and tried to tell her how to do her job?  Did I mention he was never satisfied – and refused to pay the second half of his (greatly discounted) fee?

My client was a good person, trying to help out a fellow human she thought was in trouble.

What did it get her? Heartache.

Why? Because she confused her business with a charity.

Is Your Pro Bono Work Damaging Your Business?

Are you an Accidental Charity? Are you giving away your time and value without intending it – or even realizing it?

Are you slightly offended as you read this? (That’s okay.) Or has some part of you been pondering this very question for a while? Do you find yourself wishing you could charge more, or that your clients weren’t so demanding or such jerks? Do you feel like you’re investing too much time for what you’re earning and the client doesn’t seem to appreciate what a great deal they’re getting? Are you taking clients that aren’t a good fit, just because you want or have a need to help?

Let’s be clear.

I’m not saying don’t volunteer in your community or your industry. That kind of volunteer work strengthens your bonds in your community and your industry, and makes you feel like you’re making a difference. It’s also a great networking venue.

I am suggesting you be careful to not let the line blur for your business.  You can still help – just make sure you are doing it intentionally.

I have one client who offers a discount to police or firefighters – or to clients who have one in their family – after determining that client is a good fit.

Another client gives discounts to former teachers, or those whose parents or children are teachers (same good-fit criteria).

Still another gives a 10% discount to veterans. And I have a client who donates 10% of each month’s income to a charity that’s important to them.

Do you see a pattern? They are all giving their gifts from intention, not accident, nor because someone tells them a sad story.

Take Action – Make This Your Own

Take time to review your clients over the last six months – the good, the bad and the ugly.

  1. Get clear on your Pro Bono work – is it accidental or intentional?
  2. Set some guidelines for yourself – in writing.
  3. Who qualifies for a discount or charity work and why?

What other activities will you choose to deliberately give back?

Share a comment: what lessons have you learned the hard way about being an accidental charity?

You can also check out these related posts:

Are Prospects Mistaking You for a Non-Profit? How to Stand Your Ground and Demonstrate Value
The Need for Approval – How Much is it Costing You?
Are You Being Too Nice? How’s That Working for Your Business?

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