What & How To Charge A Non-Profit Client

Shmuel Holding A Hot Potato

I get a ton of questions about working with non-profits and how to handle their specific needs when it  comes to producing ads for them. As you might know I have specialized in the non – profit market, and many of my colleagues are also working in that niche. Wayne, a filmmaker friend of mine asked me recently:

“How can I charge non profit clients? They always seem to be on a tight budget and try to get a discount from me. I often feel bad to charge them my rates.”
Does this sound familiar?

I have experienced this many times myself.
In this episode of EntreFilmmaker I will answer this question and examine what stance you can take. There is a great way of educating your clients so that they don’t feel they are just throwing out money. When you let them know that this  is rather an investment, and how  they benefit from it in the long run, it changes the whole perception. It’s all about perception.  There is actually a mathematical formula  that you can apply in order to figure out what your clients should be paying in order to sell more of their stuff.

  • Awesome Shmuel. We just pitched a nonprofit client yesterday, and pitched a very fair price … and stuck to our guns.. We’ll see….your performance was great! Nicely done, keep it up. The schtick with the two fingers German vs. American was funny 🙂 as were the little outtake stuff… nice!

  • entrefilmmaker

    Thank you, David. You know, I’m glad it helps your business and is a bit entertaining as well. That’s why I’m doing this.

  • Shmuel,

    I have been in the video business for 27 years. It used to provide me a wonderful lifestyle. Over the past 5 years my business has shrunk by 80%. I watched your video talking about tzedakah. Afterward, I sent $10.00 to the Red Cross for the Philippenes. That was over the weekend. Today, I took in about $1400.00 of editing, film transfer and DVD duplication work. Coincidence? I believe more tzedakah is in order regardless of what happens.

    Thank you. Shalom.

    Guy Chaifetz

    • entrefilmmaker

      Amazing, this is one of my principles. We give 10% charity even before we close the deal. In 95% of the cases we get the deal. The deals we don’t get often are connected with the lack of having given charity. I know. You need a lot of trust. But it works every single time.

  • I have done a ton of complimentary and minimal charge videos for non-profits. Often — and other photographers and video-makers report the same experience — the non-profits often offer minimal thanks and often ask for additional work to be done, even with complimentary work. My current thinking is that non-profits themselves can’t keep expecting a free pass from individual professionals and have to pay a reasonable rate for video/photography work. Having said that, I will occasionally personally pro-actively seek to support causes that I believe in on a complimentary basis or work out a very reasonable rate.

    • entrefilmmaker

      “My current thinking is that non-profits themselves can’t keep expecting a free pass from individual professionals”. Roger, it sounds bit defensive to me what you write. Charge what you are worth and deliver a stellar product. Then that thought will go away because thats not a question any more.

  • We are a South African company and get this issue ALL THE TIME with non-profits who bleat that they “have no money allocated for a DVD as all their funds have to be allocated to their specific projects.. but they need something..please!”.. This excuse is so common that we have become quite despondent about even working with non-profits..Well done for putting this into perspective.. Remember.. Non-profits earn funds by playing on everyone’s emotions to get what THEY want… your suggestions are absolutely spot on.

  • well done Schmuel, very entertaining and also very enlightning.
    Keep up the great Blogs.!!!

  • entrefilmmaker

    Wow, thank you so much for your amazing feedback. Doreen. Don’t get down on this. I think with testing some different ways of communicating with them I think it can work. You need to be the lead in every conversation. You dictate in a way how its going. I worked so hard on my reputation and verbal skills that most of the time I get what I need. And if not I pass them on to someone else. As soon as they feel that you are desperate its over. They might take advantage.

  • This is the best advice I’ve seen about how to deal with non-profits. Personally, I avoid working with them altogether. I have no patience for sob story negotiating tactics and prefer working with business owners and decision makers. I also warn freelancers away from focusing their efforts on NPOs, unless they are specifically targeting large educational institutions and massive charity foundations (like the clients you’re talking about in your video). These clients actually do have a budget and can pay you what you are worth – they just don’t want to if they don’t have to. Your tips for getting them to cough up the dough are excellent.

    I especially like the point about having more creative control when you work with NPOs. That’s a benefit I hadn’t thought about that would certainly appeal to creative professionals.

    I only disagree with your final statement about massively over delivering. To quote myself, “If you are routinely far exceeding the expectations of your clients, you aren’t charging enough!” I prefer to test the boundaries and ensure that my prices are closely aligned with the perceived and actual value of my services. Of course, that’s my for profit mindset talking:)

    I am continuing to raise my rates as I improve the quality of my services. Fortunately, I have no difficulty attracting plenty of clients even as I’ve more than quadrupled my rates over the last five years. However, I am in a different freelancing field (writing) where it is a lot easier for clients to evaluate quality. That may make it simpler to differentiate myself from the hobbyists compared to a field like film making where the criteria are much more subjective.

    • entrefilmmaker

      Daisy, thanks for joint EF 🙂 The point of delivering 10X what they pay for is not necessarily that you work 10X your time. It means (as outlined in Seth Godins book: Linchpin) by you working so exceptionally they can’t drop you for the next guy that shows up and charges the same or even cheaper. You want to be irreplaceable so that they are keeping coming back and buy from you.

  • Stumbled upon this on Linkedin. Really nice bit. I run a small agency in Los Angeles and 80% of our work is with non-profits.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with two things.

    1) Artistic Freedom. 100% true. And this can be very good for an agency. A film we made for a very low budget went on to get a Staff Pick on Vimeo and is currently on Upworthy getting a lot of coverage. This is the best thing you can get out non-profit work. No dollar amount can buy that brand recognition.

    2) Be straightforward, honest and charge what you think you’re worth. Always true. I’ve found that people that work in this sector are typically a bit different than the corporate side. They deeply care about their organization and they want it done right. Being honest about what it takes to do it right is essential. Also, helps you sleep at night knowing you respect your own time, ability and investments.

    I would add that for me, it’s been helpful to not talk about budgets too much with clients until I get them excited about a concept or two. Once we’ve discussed that, then I can find ways to get it made within what they can afford and I don’t get too far in over my head.

    Thanks for the post. Looking forward to more.


    • entrefilmmaker

      Andrew, absolutely true. Price should be strategically placed at around 2/3 or 3/4 of your discussion of the project. You want to first talk about the amazing benefits that they are getting in working with you. Lastly you ask then what their budget range is so that you can evaluate if the client IS RIGHT FOR YOU.

  • Thanks, Schmuley, for the informative post. I agree with your strategy. About 20% of my work is for non-profits and I have found that your pricing strategy works. In fact, one of my biggest contracts last year came from a non-profit that needed a very important video produced. At the end, everyone was happy with the project, and I felt good about the work and the profit made.

    P.S. Happy Hanukkah! May your sweet potato latkes be just like bubbie made. No wait…this is the only year anyone ever thought of sweet potato latkes! Oh, well. You know what I mean. Happy Thanksgivakkah! 😉

    • entrefilmmaker

      Mike, you seem to be a funny dude :). Very cool.

  • Great advice Schmuley. I work with NGO’s, have been on the boards of two, and have decided that I’ll budget normally, and if I care about the organization I will donate (after the job is done and paid for) back to the org some %. The truth be told, NGO’s have to pay for printing costs, web designers, ISP hosters, etc. They buy and lease equipment just like me. Usually their ED’s know that full well. They have true costs that are not donated. I do appreciate that they don’t make profits like normal businesses, but they are businesses, and they do have budgets that expand and shrink based on their campaigns or programs.

    If someone wants to outcompete me by giving away their talents, more power to them. They usually don’t produce as good of work, and they often are gone in a year or two. I routinely compete with only one other business in the area, and they are worthy competitors, doing high quality work.

    Lastly, I’ve been told on more than one occasion, that I am chosen because of the quality of my bids, my ability to turn their ideas into scripts and that I deal with them professionally. Oh yes, they also like the results.

  • John

    A simple answer … you may be a not for profit I am not.

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