Idea: A website where charities can list design work they need done and designers can do it pro-bono

over 9 years ago from , Product Designer, co-founder of @marvelapp

I've been thinking about this a lot lately after seeing lots of designers spending time redesigning popular services and apps.

I'm not discouraging that as I've done it myself and it's a great way to learn your craft.

But I was wondering if designers had the choice and opportunity of using that time to redesign a site for a charity then it could potentially be the start of something great.

It could also be useful for designers looking to build up their portfolio.

Not sure if anything like this exists? What do you guys think?


  • Kelly SuttonKelly Sutton, over 9 years ago

    We're more than happy to hand out some free LayerVault accounts for this, if it would help grease the wheels.

    41 points
  • Murat Mutlu, over 9 years ago (edited over 9 years ago )

    Hey guys,

    DN is amazing! Still trying to answer the emails, but the coding has already started and designs are underway

    So far we have

    *Front-end dev by Akram

    • Ruby coding by Joe

    • Logo design by Patrik

    *Getting the first few charities on board by Brian

    *UI bits and pieces by me

    If you have time in Dec let me know, keen for this to be a open collaboration and get the MVP out asap.

    What does everyone think of the name Design Aid?

    I'm still answering emails so if I haven't replied I will!

    3 points
  • Mathieu MayerMathieu Mayer, over 9 years ago

    I don't know if it exists already or not but it's a great idea imo. When do we start?

    3 points
  • Andrew RitchieAndrew Ritchie, over 9 years ago

    A lot of people have tried this, I've heard good things about: https://catchafire.org/

    It would help if people started suggesting this kind of work to build your portfolio. It would have to be a cultural change. And on the non-profit side you would hope they understand even if free work is available they want that to supplement their team rather than replace it.

    2 points
    • Steve ZimmermanSteve Zimmerman, over 9 years ago

      Rachael Chong from catchafire presented at Creative Mornings Boston. It was really compelling. Seems like that site has a lot of functionality and purpose that match pretty directly to things being discussed here.

      0 points
  • Greg Mathews, over 9 years ago

    This would be an awesome idea! Let me know if you start on anything! I would love to help out!

    2 points
  • Abby Larner, over 9 years ago (edited over 9 years ago )

    Awesome! I actually just hosted an event on December 7th called Design Like Mad based on the same premise. Basically we brought together 80 student and professional designers, developers, architects, and interior designers for a 12 hour "marathon" to help 20 local non-profit organizations (pro-bono). It was a huge success! Let me know if I can answer any questions, or, if you want more info on the event, you can check out our website at designlikemad.org or tweet @designlikemad. Great to see some others getting involved in this great cause!

    1 point
  • Julian LloydJulian Lloyd, over 9 years ago (edited over 9 years ago )

    Getting designers and developers onboard is great, but how would a service like this work?

    Without a designer community frequenting the service, there's not much incentive for non-profit / charity organizations. Should there be another value proposition to designers to help build the community?

    Everyone seems to fancy the idea, which is great! Perhaps the socially sustainable aspect will inspire people to share the service… or maybe a big brand sponsor like Adobe would be interested and could help build awareness.

    Does the service just connect organizations with designers (eg. Craigslist) or does it help manage communication and deliverables (eg. Fiverr)?

    Just thinking aloud…

    1 point
    • George KukaGeorge Kuka, over 9 years ago

      You bring up a good point.

      What if SaaS companies could sponsor Pro-bono projects with complimentary subscriptions to their software? For example -

      Company "X" needs design work. LayerVault sponsors Company "X" project for 3 months pro subscription. Jim - sees Company "X" project, checks out LayerVault, decides he could use the pro-subscription with future projects and decides to take on the challenge.

      When Jim finishes and delivers completed project files to Company "X" they mark the project as completed and Jim is emailed a promo code for his subscription.

      How does this sound?

      2 points
      • Julian LloydJulian Lloyd, over 9 years ago (edited over 9 years ago )

        I think you’re on to something George.

        Another thought I had was something like Tuts+ or Designer News… something that builds an audience and drives designers to check back (or subscribe to a feed).

        Or, what if any 3rd party (or parties)—not necessarily SaaS companies—could sponsor/donate/finance the design work? If the designers are getting paid (or even just have a chance at getting paid ), it changes the game.

        1 point
        • George KukaGeorge Kuka, over 9 years ago

          Exactly! I wasn't able to find an exact answer but does anyone know if someone like say LayerVault "donates" a $ amount to sponsor the design work for a Non-profit company is that still seen as a donation to a non-profit company and can it be used as a tax write off?

          If this was possible that would be crazy cool because then companies can sponsor "projects" that their target user demographic will see, do something good for the community, the designer / developers get paid, and the non-profit benefits with quality web work.

          Seems like a win, win, win to me.

          0 points
          • Julian LloydJulian Lloyd, over 9 years ago

            These are exactly the type of questions we should be asking. I think there's certainly potential here to create something different, especially when others have explored similar ideas.

            1 point
            • George KukaGeorge Kuka, 9 years ago

              Agreed. I was able to get a solid answer and that is "Donations need to be with no strings attached." So my other thought was the sponsoring companies could write these costs off as advertising? There needs to be a want for companies to sponsor, a stupid easy way for non-profits getting their needs out, and a large supply of designers and developers ready to work on these projects. I really look forward to seeing where this goes.

              0 points
  • Murat Mutlu, over 9 years ago

    Thanks for everyone responding! I'm gonna start pulling people together and i'll set up a project on Asana or something similar where we can all chat and start figuring out how to assign tasks, I'm on murat at mobileinc co uk

    1 point
  • Nancy TsangNancy Tsang, over 9 years ago

    This agency might be of interest to you- they over 50% of their projects are done pro bono: http://verynice.co/

    1 point
  • Account deleted over 9 years ago

    There used to be a global hackathon called Random Hacks of Kindness, where non-profits pitched projects for people to work on and they just get to it. I just went to the one in Ottawa and it was a great turnaround.

    Unfortunately it seems RHoK is dissolving so you only have the cities that ran it before and want to continue doing it actually going with it. If RHoK could get the kind of backing that hackathons like Startup Weekend get then that might be another venue for this to take place.

    1 point
  • Paul TorresPaul Torres, over 9 years ago

    That's definitely a good idea. I know there is http://www.taprootfoundation.org that works on a similar premise. They put together the talent and create a team to work on pro-bono projects.

    1 point
    • Maurice CherryMaurice Cherry, over 9 years ago

      Taproot came to mind when I first read this post! My company does one pro bono project a year for a non-profit organization, but I would love to get in on something like this for 2014.

      0 points
  • Sandeep PrabhakaranSandeep Prabhakaran, over 9 years ago

    Not sure if anything like this exists, but I had the same idea in mind awhile ago, bought the domain designersforlife.com , but never actually got around to build it. Would definitely be interested. Let me know..

    0 points
  • Gabriel Stevano, over 9 years ago

    wow, guys. let me in. i want to give something for the worlds.

    0 points
  • Arun PattnaikArun Pattnaik, over 9 years ago

    Let's definitely do this!

    0 points
  • Jakob HarnaesJakob Harnaes, over 9 years ago

    Really great idea!

    0 points
  • Jon MarshJon Marsh, over 9 years ago

    Such a great idea. Would love to be a part of this.

    0 points
  • Surjith S MSurjith S M, over 9 years ago

    Great Idea.. murat. Can't wait...

    0 points
  • Tycho Klein SevertTycho Klein Severt, over 9 years ago

    Love the idea, let's make this happen!

    0 points
  • Eric FilkinsEric Filkins, over 9 years ago

    This sounds like fun.

    0 points
  • Mike BusbyMike Busby, over 9 years ago

    That sounds like a pretty good idea Murat.

    0 points
  • Jamie SykeJamie Syke, over 9 years ago

    If you still need people I'd be game to help too. Awesome idea.

    0 points
  • Bardan Gauchan, over 9 years ago

    Shit, I've got some free time as well. Count me in!

    0 points
  • Murat Mutlu, over 9 years ago

    Woah lots of emails, getting back to peeps as soon as I can :)

    0 points
  • Matt WestMatt West, over 9 years ago

    I'd be up for this. Sounds like a great idea :)

    0 points
  • Daniel HardyDaniel Hardy, over 9 years ago

    I have had this same thought before. I think it would be pretty cool and I would even encourage you to extend it to open source applications (who hasn't used a few of these that could use some love).

    The hardest part is going to be getting everyone in the loop which sites like this can help with.

    Can't wait to see what you guys come up with.

    0 points
  • Harouth Arthur MekhjianHarouth Arthur Mekhjian, over 9 years ago

    Count me in! Love the idea itself and the chance to work with you lovely people :)

    0 points
  • Jose L PimientaJose L Pimienta, over 9 years ago

    Awesome! That would do a lot of good! I'm all for it too!

    0 points
  • Ray MartinRay Martin, over 9 years ago (edited over 9 years ago )


    0 points
  • Chuck GibsonChuck Gibson, over 9 years ago

    Good idea

    0 points
  • Dustin KemperDustin Kemper, over 9 years ago

    I was actually part of a team at Startup Weekend in Philly this year that had this exact same idea. We created a landing page and a business model. Check it out here.

    We didn't really have time to go into much app development and everyone involved sort of went off to do other things. I'd be down to help, and I can get you in contact with the founder if you want to take over or continue the project.

    0 points
  • Jason BeatonJason Beaton, over 9 years ago

    I'm so down! Ruby Dev here. When do we start?

    0 points