Supporting the Community

We’re asked, almost daily to do some free work for a worthy cause. We do it whenever we can, provided we agree that the cause is indeed worthy, and that we have the resources to do it. We support the local community, because that’s what responsible businesses do. But lately I’ve been wondering if that one-way street needs another lane. Does the community have an obligation to support local businesses?

Consider all the industry associations. A2N2. AIGA, SGN, PRSA, AMA &c. Over the last 30 years, we’ve given these organizations tens of thousands of dollars in free or discounted work. I’m not begrudging it, mind you. But it is rare that we see anything “concrete” coming back the other way. Not once has one of these organizations said: Because you’ve been such a great supporter, we’d like to pay you for this job. The closest we’ve ever come is an invitation to bid on a project. Of course the work is always awarded to a cheaper printer… probably one who does NOT do a bunch of free work for the organization. Do individual designers or agencies ever choose to work with companies who support their industry BECAUSE that company supports that industry? If not (and while this is an open question… I’ve never seen any evidence of it), I’m forced to ask why we bother. Putting our logo on something is only valuable to me if the audience is willing to act differently towards our company because they saw it.

I think it’s time that the industry associations take a good hard look at their missions and values. If the industry associations paid going rates for the work that they ordered, I bet companies like mine would be more likely to pay membership dues.

Just a thought.

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