Giving Back

May 20, 2013 amywaggs No comments

We all have charities that we follow and support because of one reason or another. Most of the time it’s because either we can relate to the cause or we know someone directly affected by it’s purpose. This past weekend (May 19, 2013) was the culmination of many months of hard work and dedication, mostly by a good friend of mine, but I’ll take a small slice of credit for some. It was the 2nd Annual Carter’s Run for Dandy-Walker, in Ashburn, VA.

As a graphic designer, my skills and interests are pretty focused on design, art and in general, things looking orderly, professional… and pleasing to the eye. I take pride in being part of Carter’s Run, mostly because when I looked out on the crowd gathering for the start of the race, and looked at all the race shirts, banners, signs, tents and everything else, it looked like it had been there for more than the 2 years we’d been doing it. The race shirts turned out amazing, the Fun Fest signage and banners were consistent and informative, and even the sign up sheets and silent auction bid sheets looked like they belonged.

What people don’t know, is that we scramble at the last minute to get this stuff pulled together and even I’m shocked that it comes together as well as it does. Nobody knows I was printing out forgotten items the night before at 11 pm! Or having banners printed 3 days before… and then reprinted because they were printed wrong.

It feels great to hear feedback from people who have no idea that this is only our second year! I am blessed to be part of a team made up of a WONDERFUL and highly motivated mom, Lisa Zimmerman, who’s son Carter is the inspiration for this event to raise awareness for Dandy-Walker Syndrome, which I hadn’t heard of until Carter was diagnosed, and an AMAZING event planner/events manager/really bossy 4’9″ Tasmanian devil, Kim Echols, that gets the event pulled together without breaking a sweat. Put the three of us together, and we cannot be stopped.

We are proud to do whatever we can to support Carter’s Run and the Cole Family at the Dandy-Walker Alliance, who give so much of their time and skills to helping the Alliance fund research at the National Institutes of Health to determine what causes Dandy-Walker and hopefully in the future, to find a cure.

A Balancing Act

Part of this post is also a discussion for those graphic designers out there who struggle with balancing the requests we get for “free” work or “charity” work, and the need to get paid for our services. There is never a shortage of people who want and need graphic design, but who don’t want to pay for it.

The most common excuses are “we’re only a small business” or “we’re a start-up company”. If we’re being honest though, this is ridiculous.

No retail store tells their wholesaler they can’t afford to pay for products because they’re small. No office says they can’t pay the rent because they’re only a start-up.

Graphic design is a service like any other, and like everyone else in this world, designers deserve and expect to get paid for their efforts. We’ve spent years in school and years in the industry perfecting our skills and learning the ins and outs of the business and how best to serve our clients. The expectation of free graphic design work from any business is simply unacceptable.

However working with a charitable organization is another matter. Charities come in many forms, though, and you need to be aware of the differences. There are legitimate 501(c)3’s out there just like the Dandy-Walker Alliance, that are completely run by volunteers and have no funding other than the generous donations given by people who care. They usually do great work and pay for much of what they do out of their own pockets, and those types of charities deserve the help with their graphic design needs.

There are other charities who have funding and actually pay good money for advertising and marketing. One such example is PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). These charities should be paying for the graphic design work they commission because they have a huge budget for that. It’s up to you as a designer to check it out and be sure you’re not being used in the name of “charity” simply because your work is not a physical product on which value can easily be placed.

We still have to pay the bills, though, so it’s important to focus on billable work first, and then pick a charity you support wholly to which you can devote your extra time an effort. It makes you feel good, and it helps a worthy cause at the same time. Just don’t be suckered into doing free work for a business that will directly profit from your skills. That’s where it crosses the line for me.

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