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Should I offer pro bono services?

I want to be an event planner. I have held several internships for the role, but I have not coordinated and set up a large event completely by myself yet. Before I can land my first big client, I need more experience first. Is offering pro bono services the best way to do this?

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Anonymous User

Pro bono services can be a great way to start building your reputation.

Here are a couple of tips that occur to me. Before the pressure or emotion of a real world request for pro bono wrk comes in, do your thinking about:

- what's in it for you?
- and therefore what opportunities you will and won't take?

This should give you your evaluation criteria. Where you are in your career, I suggest you do pro bono work that will create the right reputational assets in the sectors you want t work, create good relationships you may be able to harness, or support local or charitable causes that you want to contribute to.

Also think ahead about your terms. I recommend you extract a firm promise for a written testimonial based on the quality of your work. (There is nothing wrong, by the way, with sending a busy client your draft testimonial, for them to top and tail). I'd ask for permission to take photos and use them (subject to confidentiality of attendees). Indeed - maybe you can get a video testimonial. Think too about expenses. It is reasonable, if you are delivering a lot of value, to not be out of pocket for travel, subsistence, and necessary expenses. I'd also ask up front if, following a successful event, they could make two or three personal recommendations to people that might use your services.

Approaching a pro bono opp properly prepared with a thought-out set of terms shows you are serious and business-like.

Throughout the experience, make contacts and turn contacts into relationships. You never know who, from the lowliest to the highest, may one day put business your way. Arguably, it'll be the relationships you form that will have the most lasting impact on your future business.

One last tip. Decide your fee rate. When you have finished the PB work, send an invoice for your expenses (or a nil invoice) showing a line item. Something like: Planning your event - X days at $y per day. Charged at zero. This way, they can see the value of what you have delivered.

Good luck, Morgan

Great idea about a testimonial as a quid pro quo. As is the dummy invoice.


Pro bono is a good choice when your time and effort investment is low, Morgan. As far as I know, event planning needs a good amount of time and work. You may want to go for alpha customers who would like to give you a chance to work at slightly lower pricing than market. You can even plan this for your first 3 customers and case studies. With no money in return, you may not feel very motivated.


Hi Morgan,

If you're going to offer pro bono services, choose a charity or other organization that you want to help out (that does events, of course). Then approach them with a professional offs, which includes what the normal cost would be. Some may even offer in kind promotion. However, don't expect to get any business (if it happens, great, if not, at least you've added experience).

The other thing you'll want to do is not make a habit out of offering pro bono services. The very last thing you want is people referring you because you'll, "work for free". That why I mention make sure your offer does have what the normal cost would be on it.

Hope that helps!


I think you need to give yourself more credit. Your time is valuable. Offering pro bono services to a non-profit that you want to support is one thing and can be a great way to get experience, but with respect to getting more experience, you can absolutely charge for your services now. You might charge less to build up your client base, but you should definitely be charging a reasonable rate.


Our belief is that we offer our Pro Bono services for the right reason. We choose to donate our professional time to a worthy cause. When we do this, our expectation is not to look for anything in return. Consider donating your product or services to a charity in which you believe in. A charity that would really value and appreciate your help. If you are doing pro bono in hopes of gaining business, you may be disappointed and that can be very discouraging in the end.

If you are going to charge for your services, then charge but if you will provide pro bono services then you should "donate" your time. Its always best not to look for or expect anything in return. When you offer pro bono services its often best to do it for the reason of helping. It is also an outstanding way to gain more experience. Sometimes you may get a future contract or a referral, but that should not be expected. It is also important to note that since you are donating your time that you set the boundaries of your time commitment and the amount of services that you are donating for the engagement.

Often, other potential new clients will take notice of your well rounded efforts. Its a great way to give back and boost your professional profile. Companies like to do business with entrepreneurs who are well rounded and give back to their own community.

Our firm offers pro bono services to give back to those charities that we strongly believe in. We love it!

Best to you


My opinion you should join with big event management company rather that offer pro bono services if you are planning to earn money from event management. Pro bono services are associated with charity and social work if you get tag of social worker before starting your carrier then it will be very difficult to become professional. But if you become professional first and after that you starts such services this will be add on gift to your populirity. I hope you can better understand the difference between Professional Services and Social Services.
A Professional can become social servant easily but its will be tough job to become professional after Social Servant.



There are good and not so good reasons why you should consider pro bono work. As already mentioned, non-profits can always use your help when they are looking for volunteers. Just remember you need to eat, pay rent, clothing and all of the other necessities of life.

IF you are going to do pro bono work, make sure whomever the benefactor company/organization is noteworthy, because you should use the PR card as much as is reasonable, preferably on their dime. I'm talking about local PR, as in radio, television (if possible with the charity) local news. I'm talking national PR (the majors) You're worth it, and you can always use the bragging rights. AND, you have something to use in your portfolio.


Hi Morgan,
Pro bono its ok for a charity here and there, but not on a regular basis. Don't start your pricing too low, you may never get it up to where you could/should be. Too many lost clients for that reason. Check out other peers pricing, don't be as high, don't get too low, best to go about the 60%-65% mark. When you contract with intent to raise pricing, let your client know that the introductory offer is just that INTRODUCTORY.
Don't be ashamed of your prices, its like saying you may not be worth it. Be firm, yet agile.
How that helps
Cheers, Jack


No. Running events is hard work. Running excellent events is far, far harder. Most punters don't understand the difference, so don't give it away for free, because as John says, they won't appreciate it.
As a client, I wouldn't be happy to discover my event was effectively for you to hone our skills. You need to be able to demonstrate your skills in order to get paid work.
Does nobody hire anyone any more? There must be jobs you can find in planning events. If you're struggling because its not in a sector you wish to work in, forget that and find work anywhere – financial services is always running events – and get some more practice. While you are there, make yourself indispensable, take on more responsibility and thereby get more experience. Before long you will be able to run your own events.
Once you are ready to spread your wings, confident you have enough experience, then you might offer your services free, or preferably at a highly competitive rate, to start a relationship with a client. Especially if it possible they could become a regular client.
If that doesn't work, charity or NFP is definitely the way to go about it as at least they deserve not having to pay for your services.


My impression from your question is that you are not currently established as a business, but you have had experience. A big client may have small events, and small clients can have surprisingly large events. Consider a partner with similar experience level who has different long term interests (maybe you want to focus on multi-day conferences, and your temporary partner is interested in local events like community holiday celebrations). You have someone to back you up that isn't true competition. Start out charging a lower rate, but not free. And learn how to give free advice without giving too much away.

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