Commentary

How Pro Bono Work Boosts Creativity

Most people have experienced struggling with a problem, thinking it through and still feeling stuck. Only to go to bed, sleep 8 hours, and wake in the morning knowing exactly what to do. 

For me, having a shower works the same way. By not focusing intently on a problem, I often come up with a solution. And as an agency, you can have the same results when working with pro bono clients. 

We, personally, have a niche focus on B2B tech clients. Most of our clients are either start-ups or scale-ups and SaaS companies that are helping other enterprises digitize their businesses. 

As such, this type of work doesn’t solely have a creative solution. As agencies, we also spend a lot of time understanding our clients’ businesses by applying the analytical sides of our brains. This is perhaps what I love most about our chosen segment of the advertising world. However, it can be very intense and draining too. In those instances, pro bono clients which represent completely different problems and ways of thinking can provide a respite and I find that after shifting our focus to working on a pro bono project for a few hours or days, you can come back to your everyday clients with a fresh perspective. 

Like most other small agencies, we did not start out in B2B but in 2017, I looked at our book of business and realized just how good, and how heavy into tech we truly were. As we leaned into the B2B segment, I looked around the office and saw all the amazing and talented creatives we had. That said, many of you have probably heard the expression tech-blue, which illustrates how limited creativity in B2B has traditionally been. So naturally, I worried about how to keep my staff engaged and challenged as we doubled down on this sector. And initially, that’s where we saw pro bono as a creativity complement. Something that would allow the team wider creative berths. 

But what started out as perhaps a little self-indulgent, quickly became so much more important. At the end of the day, selling virtualization software is intellectually challenging but nothing beats feeling like you're putting your talents to use for something greater than yourself. That we are doing our small share in trying to improve our communities and societies. Living in San Francisco, one of the richest cities in the world, this has become even more urgent. In the midst of all this wealth, we know that 20% of our city's population are food insecure. We also know that our pro bono clients, such as Second Harvest, make a real difference and the positive effects of partnering with them spreads to all our other work. 

Our pro bono work has helped galvanize us as a team and it can help yours too. After thousands of hours learning about things like cybersecurity and translating that into personable brands, it’s easy for a creative agency filled with hyper creative people to feel a little mentally tired. Pro bono is a new spark and outlet that facilitates a different kind of thinking than what we are used to the other 90% of the time. 

It also is a source of inspiration to take back to the tech industry. By inputting time into a totally new field and industry, it’s possible to learn more about your community and people in general. 

Pro bono allows you to take inspiration from a totally new perspective and translate it back to the B2B industry. This has for sure kept us on our toes and contributing fresh ideas back to our B2B clients. Like they say, the best ideas come from the most unsuspecting of places.

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