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Old May 11th, 2013, 11:07 PM   #1
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Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

From time to time I get a few requests to do free work for charity. I've decided to take a few on in my free time, and am working out the legal aspects with my lawyer.

I've worked for free before, but only for my own benefit. I would appreciate any advice on how to work for charity - what problems might I face, situations I might come across, things I haven't foreseen, etc.

Thanks.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 12:14 AM   #2
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

Before you take the job be sure to clearly spell out in writing what you will do, how many hours you will spend shooting and editing, and what they will get as a final product. Good advice for any project. Since you are working for free you make the rules and stick to them. If they want t deviate from your agreement they can pay you.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 02:11 AM   #3
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

Good on you for doing some charity work. The times I've done it have been very rewarding. Not having to worry about budgets etc can be quite freeing. The feeling of helping out a good charity is better than being paid (oops, I never said that :-))!
The only thing I would worry about are your insurances. Whose insurance will cover you if you are injured or if your equipment injures someone (like trips over a cable).
Go for it, enjoy the experience.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 03:57 AM   #4
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

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Originally Posted by Rick L. Allen View Post
Before you take the job be sure to clearly spell out in writing what you will do, how many hours you will spend shooting and editing, and what they will get as a final product. Good advice for any project. Since you are working for free you make the rules and stick to them. If they want t deviate from your agreement they can pay you.
Thanks, Rick! I'm going to treat it like any other professional gig.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 03:59 AM   #5
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

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Originally Posted by Phill Pendleton View Post
Good on you for doing some charity work. The times I've done it have been very rewarding. Not having to worry about budgets etc can be quite freeing. The feeling of helping out a good charity is better than being paid (oops, I never said that :-))!
The only thing I would worry about are your insurances. Whose insurance will cover you if you are injured or if your equipment injures someone (like trips over a cable).
Go for it, enjoy the experience.
Thanks, Phill! Insurance is definitely something I'll talk to my lawyer about.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 06:54 AM   #6
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

I have done some of this and my lawyer told me to treat it like any other paying job except I'm not getting paid. My liability insurance still covers me, I fill out a service agreement specifying the details and scope of the job just like I would for any other job, I even specify the dollar amount I would normally charge for said described work and have the payment schedule as part of the service agreement but at the end after I total the charges, I have NO CHARGE on there in big print so they know what the job would be worth and the value of what they're getting. I agree that should the deviate from the scope of the work then a discussion needs to be had about possible payment and of course an addendum needs to be written and included in the original agreement along with not only the scope of the work of the change but also any monetary agreement.
I then let my CPA figure out what part if any or all is tax deductible for me at the end of the year.
Just because I'm not getting paid doesn't mean it's not real work and doesn't mean I don't need to protect myself.
As much as possible...CYA!
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Old May 12th, 2013, 09:20 AM   #7
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

one thing to think about, is charging for equipment rental.

Yes it's charity work, but you're equipment wasn't free for you, so if you think about it, giving them equipment for free is almost like paying them to do your work. Wear and tear is always. If you nick your UV Filter, who's going to pay to replace it? same with anything else that isn't made of adamantium.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 09:11 PM   #8
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

I discovered a new approach to free work the other day and i'll be using it for my next charity/freebie work as i think it will avoid some of the issues all of us must have encountered when donating labour or doing friends favours.

You basically give them a set number of hours for free - worked out to cover what a job of that size would normally take so they won't have to pay anything. Unless they make lots of changes or ask for more. This is where I think the friendship or relationship can get strained if the client keeps asking for more and more for free and eventually you'll get annoyed and have to cut them off.

So if you agree that the job will take 30 hours then you can put in place an agreement for 30 hours of donated work and if they burn through those hours then you charge your normal rate (or even a discounted rate if you like). This then makes everyone conscious of working to schedule and a plan but still gives them the option to make changes if they need to but they're aware it's not an endless pool of free work.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 09:33 PM   #9
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

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Originally Posted by Don Bloom View Post
I have done some of this and my lawyer told me to treat it like any other paying job except I'm not getting paid. My liability insurance still covers me, I fill out a service agreement specifying the details and scope of the job just like I would for any other job, I even specify the dollar amount I would normally charge for said described work and have the payment schedule as part of the service agreement but at the end after I total the charges, I have NO CHARGE on there in big print so they know what the job would be worth and the value of what they're getting. I agree that should the deviate from the scope of the work then a discussion needs to be had about possible payment and of course an addendum needs to be written and included in the original agreement along with not only the scope of the work of the change but also any monetary agreement.
I then let my CPA figure out what part if any or all is tax deductible for me at the end of the year.
Just because I'm not getting paid doesn't mean it's not real work and doesn't mean I don't need to protect myself.
As much as possible...CYA!
Thanks, Don! That's a great idea. I'm talking with my accountant on how to manage this bit. This will also not slot me into the 'working for cheap' category.

Regarding overages, I will probably be helping those who can't afford it, so I intend to take responsibility for it. I must do my bit of due diligence and ensure I can complete a project before taking it on. Fingers crossed.

Thanks!
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Old May 12th, 2013, 09:35 PM   #10
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

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Originally Posted by Darren Levine View Post
one thing to think about, is charging for equipment rental.

Yes it's charity work, but you're equipment wasn't free for you, so if you think about it, giving them equipment for free is almost like paying them to do your work. Wear and tear is always. If you nick your UV Filter, who's going to pay to replace it? same with anything else that isn't made of adamantium.
Good advice, Darren. Here's where I'm stuck: The people I intend to help cannot afford to make a video, but I don't want to cheap out on tools either. It's my responsibility. On the other hand, if I'm working with organizations with deeper pockets, I might ask them to pay for gear at least.

Otherwise it's all coming out of my pocket.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 09:39 PM   #11
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

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Originally Posted by Damian Heffernan View Post
I discovered a new approach to free work the other day and i'll be using it for my next charity/freebie work as i think it will avoid some of the issues all of us must have encountered when donating labour or doing friends favours.

You basically give them a set number of hours for free - worked out to cover what a job of that size would normally take so they won't have to pay anything. Unless they make lots of changes or ask for more. This is where I think the friendship or relationship can get strained if the client keeps asking for more and more for free and eventually you'll get annoyed and have to cut them off.

So if you agree that the job will take 30 hours then you can put in place an agreement for 30 hours of donated work and if they burn through those hours then you charge your normal rate (or even a discounted rate if you like). This then makes everyone conscious of working to schedule and a plan but still gives them the option to make changes if they need to but they're aware it's not an endless pool of free work.
That sounds like great advice, Damian. I will most likely put something to this effect in the contract. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be in a position to enforce it because they won't be able to afford it, and I 'should have known better' at the beginning.

I feel if it really came to a point where we can't complete the project, it will most likely be abandoned or postponed or whatever. I must find a way to figure out how it's going to turn out, at the beginning.
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Old May 12th, 2013, 09:40 PM   #12
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

Any advice on how to handle 'creative differences'?
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Old May 12th, 2013, 11:53 PM   #13
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

I've found that's the hard bit, you've really got to know who you're dealing with before you do anything.

Because once they know it's not costing them, control freaks you've never even seen before, will pour out of the woodwork and go berserk.
I spell out the basic show in a one page outline, get it approved telling them (with a smile) that's it. The first cut is final, any recuts will be at cost.

Just supply the required number of copies, keep all the footage, so someone's *creative* son can't get at it. You might not even know.

I started with one charity who wanted to sell DVDs on line, so the programs had to be saleable quality. After 3 years and 5 successful programs,
they still haven't got an online shoppe, so I've given up.

Cheers.
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Old May 13th, 2013, 09:45 AM   #14
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

Thanks, Allan!

What I dread are 'experienced' volunteers who want to put in their two cents during the shoot. If I can get away clean with the footage I'll be okay!

About the charity who couldn't sell DVDs online, did you try to go out of your way to advise them? In India, people aren't very savvy when it comes to the internet and video. I am tinkering with the idea of helping them set up their website as well - do you think it's too much? Don't want to get sucked in to a never-ending loop of misery.
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Old May 13th, 2013, 11:28 AM   #15
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Re: Advice on Shooting Pro Bono

I've been down the road of "everyone know everything about what I am doing because they've all done family videos" so after learning the lesson the hard way I also have in my T&C of my service agreement EXACTLY WHO has control on their side and who has it on my side (obviously ME). Anyone else that tries to get into the mix I politely inform them that they have ZERO say so and that I deal ONLY with SO and SO from their organization. When they return with so and so from the group it gets sorted out in a polite yet firm manner at that time and since I have the scope of work on the service agreement with me, guess what. I WIN! Unless they want to do a change order and pay me my normal rate.
It generally doesn't get to testy nor has it happened a lot but then again I don't do much of the No Charge work anymore.
My point is EVERYTHING needs t be spelled out in writing regardless of whether they are a paying client or not. Like my lawyers over the years have always said, "if it's not in writing, it doesn't exist!"
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