1. Linda the small business owner: Linda is the head of a small law practice in San Jose, California. As an attorney, Linda focuses on business litigation. She only has one full-time employee, and brings in a paralegal a couple of days per week to help out here and there. One day, Linda realized that there was a huge need for her services amongst business owners in a neighboring city, East Palo Alto, but that these individuals could not afford her services. As a result, she decided to institutionalize a 50% pro-bono commitment in which she would offer her services for free to the EPA region. Feeling fulfilled and excited by the idea, she decided to bring up her initiative to other lawyers that she shares an office with. They immediately were inspired by the idea and offered to help her out where and when they could. Next thing Linda knew, she had a bunch of colleagues to pull from, all of whom were willing to take on a pro-bono account every now and then under the umbrella of her small law practice. The business owners in East Palo Alto that received pro-bono legal advice from Linda were so grateful that they began to tweet about Linda and even tell friends in other parts of the Silicon Valley! Linda was then able to scale her practice thanks to the recognition she was receiving from her pro-bono c lientele as well as the new relationships she was able to develop through collaborating with like-minded colleagues. Linda has been giving half of her work away for free for two years, but has been in business for a total of five. Prior to giving half of her work away for free, she was seeing an annual increase in revenue of about 50%. In the first year that Linda implemented her new business model, she did not see more than a 5% increase in revenue, but now that she is more comfortable with creative outsourcing, she has seen an increase in revenue of 75% this year!
2. Chad the freelance editor: Chad was a college student in his senior year majoring in English Literature with a minor in Journalism. While in school, on the weekends and evenings, Chad enjoyed doing freelance work on the side as a writer and editor for local businesses and non-profit organizations. This work all started when Chad realized he was a bit restless in class. Hungry for some real world experience, he decided it was time to get more experience, paid or not. After doing some research into a variety of industries and sectors, Chad realized that smaller non-profits seemed to have a difficult time conveying their mission and vision in an accessible manner. As a result, Chad was able to determine the importance of creative language for a non-profit as a means to drive more donations and awareness. Chad was able to kick off this freelance career most intensely after having developed his portfolio through pro-bono work that he offered to small non-profits he found on craigslist. Now two years out of school, Chad has been able to sustain himself as a full-time freelancer. Chad’s workload grew quite fast after college thanks to the substantial referrals he obtained from his volunteer work. He quickly began to see an increase in annual revenue from just $5,000 in his first year of business to close to $75,000 in his third year as a full-time freelancer. As a result, Chad now occasionally employs friends and former classmates as both paid contractors and volunteer writers which has allowed him to scale his freelance editing business gradually. Thanks to his pro-bono work, not only has Chad been able to develop a hefty portfolio of editing work, he was also able to launch a career in writing.
3. Mark the in-house designer: Mark is an in-house designer at an insurance company in Scottsdale, Arizona. While the company has over 100 employees, he is one of three designers. Mark finds that there is often downtime at his job since design is not necessarily a huge priority at his company. As a result, he decided to launch an initiative within the business in which he and the rest of his team would offer up their design services to a handful of non-profit organizations that the company is already supporting through their philanthropic and corporate social responsibility initiatives. Mark called his initiative “downtime design,” and as a result the small team has been able to contribute design assistance to over 50 organizations in Arizona and beyond! While “downtime design” has not generated any new clear revenue streams for the insurance company, it has resulted in a significant increase in awareness and word of mouth marketing for the agency in appreciation for the great work Mark’s team has produced for local organizations. The initiative was even featured in the local newspaper!
4. Natasha the big business owner: Natasha is a successful architect and engineer. She runs a successful business in Texas called Texas Home Vision LLC. The company employs roughly 200 people and generates over 150 million dollars per year in revenue. After learning about the 50% pro-bono business model, Natasha grew inspired by the idea that her design/build firm could adopt a similar methodology. Unfortunately, however, it became clear that pivoting her current operation toward a model like this would result in a massive loss for the company. Seeing as the business is already quite large, giving half of her work away for free would require laying off a substantial majority of her staff as well as downsizing in facility size. This was not a sacrifice that Natasha wanted to make. Instead, after 20 years, Natasha has decided to step down from her current role as Chief Executive Officer in order to launch a new non-profit wing for the business called The Texas Home Foundation. For every project that the primary for-profit wing takes on, this new foundation will take on a pro-bono project to help design and build something for an underserved part of the Texas community. While the foundation has only been up and running for about 3 months, things are already going great, and Natasha is feeling much more fulfilled in her new position in the company!
5. Jason the boot-strapped entrepreneur: Jason is an entrepreneur on a mission to start his own consultancy. Without having the luxury of investment or a huge savings, Jason has decided to keep his company simple by being a one-man show in a shared office space. The cool thing? His clients have no idea that it’s just him. By leveraging the #givehalf model’s creative approach to collaboration and delegation, Jason is able to take on twice the amount of work he would have been able to do otherwise, which has even allowed him to take on a series of pro-bono projects in order to build his skill-set and work on projects he is passionate about.