How saying no can be a great gift, too.

  • Written by Peyton Rowe

The Problem
One of the hardest parts of organizing CreateAthon’s signature program, the 24-hour creative blitz, is telling a large number of deserving non-profit organizations that they haven’t been selected. Like any true blue designer and creator of good, I want to help everyone. And, after organizing four CreateAthon onCampus classes and successful 24-hour events at Virginia Commonwealth University, I had hoped saying no would get easier the fifth time around. This December, when the 12 Richmond, Virginia non-profits were selected and 31 were not, I realized it would never get easy. All of these non-profit organizations had submitted strong proposals and were doing powerful work in the community. And all of them would be able to improve that impact with a little help from creative folks.

This year, saying no got a little easier.

The Solution
Andrea Goulet, my partner in good here in the Richmond office of CreateAthon, coordinated a brilliant pilot program. Andrea is a board member of Richmond’s chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design. AIGA “believes designers serve a critical role as communicators, educators and innovators.” and is the go-to resource for all designers. This fall, AIGA launched a new initiative called Design for Good which encourages and recognizes pro bono and social engagement design projects. Inspired by this initiative and seeing a perfect opportunity to connect designers with non-profits, Andrea set about to do just that.

In partnership with AIGA Richmond, Andrea emailed the design membership (about 300 designers) with a list of 22 volunteer opportunities collected through CreateAthon (some non-profits chose not to participate). She wrote,

“Unfortunately, CreateAthon had more applicants than they could serve. So, what better way to keep the good vibes going than to connect you with the non-profits that still need help. It helps you stretch your creative prowess and feel good. It helps the non-profits fulfill their mission. And it helps our community stay strong. It’s a win-win-win!”

CreateAthon gave all negotiating power to the designers, empowering the designers to reach out to these organizations in their community. Designers are often looking to stretch themselves, break out of boring, everyday work, build portfolios, make connections or simply find a way to give back. CreateAthon provided this opportunity directly to their email in-boxes.

Best of all, at our last check, all of the non-profits except one had received a response from a designer that offered either a discounted rate or a pro bono offer! That is 21 more organizations who will serve better, lots more designers will become involved with their local community and countless clients those non-profits serve whose lives will improve. It’s nothing but good.

The Opportunities
The success of this pilot program shows that CreateAthon has an unbelievable opportunity to help even more nonprofits. Imagine the good of a formalized program in markets across the country. As we deepen our relationship with AIGA, we will continue to work on connecting CreateAthon events and AIGA chapters that are in the same city.

A next step could be to build a matchmaking service on CreateAthon’s website as well as offering  a section that educates non-profits about the design process. One non-profit mentioned that she had no idea what a “comp” was, so she was hesitant to email the designer back.

Now that we’re a 501(c)3, there are so many possibilities for CreateAthon to help non-profits learn about who and what they need to make their story heard. CreateAthon can become a way for non-profits to learn, to practice clarifying their needs and even open doors to various ways to have their communication needs met.

I like to think of this future for CreateAthon and non-profits. I like to think of a time when saying no is easier because it will really mean onto the next opportunity. How about you? When you think about the future of CreateAthon, what do you see? Leave your ideas in the comments below, and together we can change the world!