40 Million Puppy Adoption Fees, Clean Water for 160 Million People and More – the Possible Result of This Small Business Practice

Jun 9, 2014

This post is by Matthew Manos, founder and managing partner of verynice, a global design firm that gives more than half of its work for free to nonprofit organizations. Hear from Manos June 16 during the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service in Atlanta.

matt20manos.jpgMatt Manos

When I was 16 years old, I took on my first pro-bono project. I found myself in a skate park in the Silicon Valley. You could find me there on most weekends, but this particular weekend, something spectacular happened.

I saw a man in a wheelchair ripping around the park far better than everyone else, myself included. Intrigued, I rolled a bit closer to the man only to find that he was not alone, but he was actually with a group of kids, also in wheelchairs.

I came to find out that this man was the founder of a nonprofit organization that taught handicapped children how to participate in extreme sports. Incredibly moved, I volunteered to design some stickers to help promote the organization. Just starting to learn how to use Photoshop, the stickers really were not my best work, but they did have a profound impact on me that would define the next 10 years of my career as a designer.

I’m the founder of a company in Los Angeles called verynice. We are a global design and innovation consultancy that gives more than half of its work away for free. So far we have been able to save nonprofit organizations almost $1.5 million, which has been directly reinvested into each organization to generate more impact. It is our sole mission to invent new models of business that allow for the alleviation of expenses for nonprofit organizations.

In more recent years, we have started to pioneer a new kind of movement amongst service providers. As a result, there are now dozens of other businesses and individuals that are giving half of their work away for free, on top of thousands of practitioners that have begun offering pro-bono services, inspired by our mission.

Why do we do this? Let’s start imagining something pretty remarkable. 

If nonprofit organizations can save billions a year, and if service providers in my industry alone waived fees for nonprofit clientele, we could accomplish some pretty amazing things on an annual basis. This is the equivalent of 40 million puppy adoption fees, clean water for 160 million people, and the labor and materials required to build homes for 160,000 families. 

I’m constantly asked why we give half of our work away for free instead of 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent… The reason is far less logistical than everyone might imagine. It really is a philosophical decision. I truly believe that if we want to create social impact, we need to make giving back an integral component of our day-to-day lives, not an extracurricular activity that we do on the weekends.

We might not think that we can each individually change the world through our work. In reality, we can't. But what we can do is resist the societal norm of charging for our work in the social sector so that they may move onward and upward with an abundance of resources.