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Does Recording VO For Nonprofits Mean Less Profit For You?

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

December 18, 2009

Comments (12)

For Profit VS NonprofitI received a question from a voice over talent recently asking what I thought they should charge when doing work for a non-profit company.

Their assumption was that a discounted rate should be offered to companies who have not-for-profit status.

Not knowing offhand, I decided to take a poll on Facebook and received a number of replies that insisted a regular fee be levied as opposed to a discounted rate!

Hear more from professional voice actors who have experience working for non-profits in today's VOX Daily.

Opinions On Working For Non-Profits

Does working for a not-for-profit organization mean you have to charge lower rates to serve them?

According to numerous sources online, including Wikipedia.org, the main difference between nonprofit organizations and for profit organizations is that nonprofits don't pay dividends to shareholders and spend all of their revenue on activities that their organization supports, operational costs and promotional materials.

In light of the holiday season celebrated at present by many different faiths and religious groups, this topic of charging organizations set out to do charitable works regular fees may appear somewhat taboo... however what we need to remember is that work is done at all times of year and budgets are set aside well in advance of Christmas, Chanukah, Eid or Kwanzaa, be the budgets sizable or small.

I posed the question from earlier in my article to some friends yesterday on Facebook for the purposes of getting an answer for the talent who asked and also to write an article on the subject with knowledge from working voice talent, both union and non-union, regarding their views on quoting for nonprofits.

Your Feedback

The conversation as it unfolded has been detailed below regarding non-profit companies and whether or not a discounted rate is necessary or encouraged:

"I think that just because the client may be a non-profit, or not for profit, doesn't mean that you shouldn't charge scale. Working for a non-profit doesn't mean you should become non-profit yourself."

-- Chris Wagner


"I'm with Chris. You're in business to support yourself. Your time is money, whether for a profit or non-profit."

-- Scott Fortney


"Another 'race to the bottom' issue. If memory serves there is a website that tells you how effective non-profits are vis-a-vis how much of each dollar goes to their cause. If they are really frugal in their administration then I might cut them some slack. If their CEO is making half-a-million dollars a year (no matter if USD or CAD) then I would be less likely to relent."

-- Glenn Carella


"To attract top talent Non-Profits have to pay the going rate to attract qualified professionals, voice over should be no exception. Charity Manager's national survey of US Non-profit administrators puts the AVERAGE salary of a non-profit manager at $160,000. The guy who runs the Charlotte NC, YMCA makes over $400,000. (I know, I have served on the boards of a few non-profits and have approved the salary of many a manager)"

-- John Taylor


"I once worked for a PBS affiliate where the President made a 1/4 million or more, the CFO $160-grand or more, chief engineer and IT people all in the 6 figures. Non-profit?? Come on! If that's non-profit, I'm leaving the for-profit world. Charge them the same - in many cases, it should be more. Sorry, but that is my personal take."

-- Scott Fortney


"I agree with Chris as well. Indeed your time is money. Donation does not pay the bills... it's a business transaction and with that being said, dollars need to be in the equation."

-- Scott Lee Cupp


"A PSA for Broadcast Television the charge would be around $426 for one years use. That is a great deal."

-- Randy Thomas


"A not-for-profit entity is granted that status, not because they make no money, but because the nature of their work qualifies them for tax-exempt status. They have budgets and overhead just like anyone else and everyone is paid a living wage. You should charge your normal rate and do your best work."

-- Deborah Sale-Butler

What Are Your Thoughts?

From where I sit having been part of church councils, ministries and involved in choirs that were nonprofits, discounted rates or donations of time, talent and treasure do help to offset costs and allow these organizations to use limited finances in other areas to continue doing good works.

Perhaps it depends on the size of a nonprofit and how much of their revenue goes directly to the people or communities they are serving... I'd love to hear your thoughts. The majority, if not all, comments I received were from one particular point of view.

Do you treat non-profit clients any differently than your for profit clients with regard to your fees?

Join in the conversation!

Best wishes,

Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/Deborah Albers

Related Topics: Christmas, Non-Union, TV, union


Comments


    Another great question/topic. I feel all the comments thus far are certainly valid. I'm well aware of some "non-profits" that always want the lowest price...something for nothing etc. I've seen them even say up-front in a posting "...please keep in mind, we are a non-profit". There are some folks who turn me off immediately when it comes to wanting a break on the price – they can usually be spotted a mile away.

    However, it is my general rule to offer a 20% discount right off the bat to most non-profits. I hope I can explain myself well enough here. Personally, if I know of the entity, believe in the cause or am approached correctly, I will "want" to offer a reduced rate – I want to come along side and support the effort for the greater good...it's something I enjoy. That said, there are times when no reduction is offered – it's a case by case evaluation. There have been times when I have withheld an invoice, though we had negotiated on a reasonable rate, because during the process I felt compelled to do so.

    At the same time, a "laborer is worthy of their wages" and it should not be incumbent upon a voice talent to offer any discount, as it should be done from the heart, not out of obligation or presumption on the part of the client.

    Posted by:

      Unless we charge our regular rates, we'll end up running a non-profit ourselves!

      If you feel inclined to contribute to a charity, you can always donate part of your proceeds to that organization, or offer your voice as a gift.

      I believe it's important for people to be aware of the value of what we have to offer. Unfortunately, in this part of the world, our value is often reflected by the price tag we put on our services. If we believe that what we have to offer adds value to our client (profit or nonprofit), we owe it to ourselves to charge accordingly.

      As several colleagues have pointed out, non-profit is not synonymous with low-budget. But for that, we'd have to challenge our own assumptions first!

      Posted by:

        I think the problem here is that people are getting "Non profit" confused with "A Charity."
        In my business model-
        Non-Profit- An organisation that has funding (usually government) and are operating as a business. They may well not be there to make a profit but they are there to make the best of their revenue. They will often therefore do their own clients over in order to make their "Non-Profit" status.

        Charity: An organisation that simply helps people in need. No business model, no dedication of funds to outside projects.
        Simply helping people in a non-business way..........and so what if you make a loss?

        Posted by:
        • Steve Royal
        • December 19, 2009 10:19 AM

          Many valid points have been brought up thus far, Stephanie. So, I thought I'd bring in a different 'voice.'
          This past year I offered my services--not just voice, but also my studio time-to the American Cancer Society...FOR FREE.
          Backstory: My wife is a breast cancer survivor, and received wonderful help from this organization. At a 'survivors' dinner hosted by the ACS, I introduced myself to the local VP, and offered him my services as a "Thank you" for all they do. It was perhaps 2 hours out of my life, and felt good to do. I believe in 'pay it forward,' and who knows...it builds good karma...and may come back with some paying work in the future.
          (But I didn't volunteer expecting anything in return)
          Obviously, this is a cause close to home...and I wouldn't do this for ANY organization, but felt it was a way I could "give back."

          Posted by:
          • JC Haze
          • December 19, 2009 10:59 AM

            Glenn Carella's earlier comment included: "If memory serves there is a website that tells you how effective non-profits are vis-a-vis how much of each dollar goes to their cause. If they are really frugal in their administration then I might cut them some slack."

            Yes, the sites exist, but their definition of "effective" is almost solely based on low overhead costs. But further research on the matter tells us more:
            "It’s only common sense that an organization with lower overhead is
            making better use of your gift, right?

            Maybe not. In fact, research shows that the overemphasis on low overhead, far from enhancing the efficiency of charitable organizations, has reduced their effectiveness and corrupted their accounting. . . by far the more common problem is spending too little on the organizational infrastructure that is the foundation for effective programs over the long term. Lower is not better—better is better. And by and large, you get what you pay for."
            http://nccsdataweb.urban.org/kbfiles/541/Donor%20Guide.pdf

            My take on it is to choose one or two nonprofits that you care about, and offer them a small discount. Any other nonprofits should be billed at your regular rate.

            Posted by:

              Great question, Stephanie. As some other VOs have commented, in cases of a larger organization such as a PBS Affiliate, I will charge my normal rate. However, if it's a much smaller not-for-profit whose CEO is paid modestly and their work particularly resonates with me, I'll discount and have even done a few pro bono. Always listen to your heart and do what feels right.

              David

              Posted by:

                Having a wife who works in non-profit and being a Los Angeles air personality for 28 years, I can tell you that you just can't make a general statement when it comes to working for a non-profit organization. As stated, some non-profits put aside a budget for talent and others are in need of a bit of charity. I've worked for free for groups as large as the American Lung Association and the Bob Hope Hollywood USO and have been paid SAG scale for smaller groups like The Wells Center in Santa Monica. I always look at each non-profit individual and make my choice. some times I kick my salary back to the organization. But never feel bad if they want to pay, non-profits are businesses that relay on a good talent to sell their service.


                Jay Coffey

                Formerly of K-EARTH 101 Los Angeles Now full time voice over actor.

                Posted by:
                • Jay Coffey
                • December 21, 2009 9:05 AM

                  I have done a little voice over work for a company. However, I have also done work for

                  - a self-guided driving tour for a county government
                  - a radio spot for a live performance of A Christmas Carol at my own church that benefits a women's shelter in our community
                  - several characters on a television show that is all deaf signing characters with voiceover and subtitles

                  - The county government job never was fully finished, and I was paid nada.
                  - The church ad - done at a professional studio - paid ALL the actors (including the one that my church wasn't satisfied with, thus calling me in to do it over) EXCEPT me! My son recently told me that next time I bill them. This is business, they paid everyone else, why not me?
                  - The television show pays none of the cast or voice over artists. They operate on a shoe string, and do a great job in spite of that.

                  So....I've counted two out of the three as a gift to places that are doing valuable work for people in need. However, it did bother me a bit to be the one actor for the
                  radio spot not to be paid. I love to do it, and would like to make it an income stream.

                  I don't have a home studio - my son is going to help me look into getting set up. Have questions about how to network, but he's got ideas about that as well. He's in the Chicago area in media, so a great asset!

                  Blessings this Christmas!

                  Diane Vosburg

                  Posted by:
                  • Diane Vosburg
                  • December 21, 2009 9:05 AM

                    Stephanie...

                    Having spent time in broadcast management and dealing with literally tens-of-thousands of requests for no-cost PSA's, I developed a policy: "Show me your IRS-approved 'non-profit status' papers, and I'll give you DONATED airtime."

                    In return, you'll give me a donation RECEIPT for that amount of money."

                    As a VO guy, I do the same with one EXTRA condition: My time/talent donation gets included in everything they publish.

                    Yes, I know many VO people struggle to make a living...but the holiday season is a small part of the year and donating your talent with those conditions gets you three things: 1. It gets your name spread around (with a POSITIVE connection); 2. It gets you a HUGE tax-writeoff (legal & documented!) for "charity"; and, 3. Everlasting GRATITUDE from the non-profit.

                    It also gets more Non-Profits coming to you each year... but expanding a good thing is usually another good thing!

                    It's "win-win" for everyone!

                    Jay Lloyd
                    Benicia, CA

                    Posted by:
                    • Jay Lloyd
                    • December 21, 2009 9:08 AM

                      Great topic! I agree with the majority of people in the article. It is a business transaction, plain and simple. If the non-profit is in a position to buy advertising....well, then they're of a size to pay a real rate. (to say nothing of what these groups are apparently paying their CEO's according to some reports?!)

                      Posted by:
                      • Tess Morgan
                      • December 21, 2009 1:50 PM

                        Personally, if it's a non-profit, I will charge a lower rate, especially if it is for a charity or religious purpose. I think it's a way of helping organizations that are out there to aid the communities they are in. The only time I charge a regular rate is if the work they are doing is evangelical. I think it's important to support and help all non-profits.

                        Posted by:

                          Jay,

                          Kudos on a positive and creative way to handle non-profit clients; however, I've been told that the donation of "services" such as voiceover isn't considered deductible, while donations of tangible goods or money does qualify. Any snags on that front?

                          Posted by:

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