Should you discount for non-profits?

Should you cut your fees for worthy non-profit associations? One of Consultant Journal’s readers, Walela, recently commented on the consulting fees post:

This is my first consultant opportunity: to consult with a  non-profit that received a grant for a teen mentoring program. Are the fee formulas mentioned on the site applicable to non-profits  as well? I want to be sensitive to their financial situation, but not give away my services either.

I don’t agree with discounting rates for non-profits. You’re not a charity – the non-profit is. I suppose I stopped discounting my rates for non-profits when I realized many of them advocate against exploitation, undervaluing of people and so on, but they still pay their employees and contractors poverty-level rates. However, there are times when I can see that a project is especially interesting or worthy, for reasons related to your business or personal values. I see a few ways to look at this:

  • Volunteer. If the opportunity is so good, volunteer without hesitation. Give freely.
  • Quote at your full rate and donate back the amount at which you would have discounted your fees. You can even state this in the proposal. This gets the non-profit to better value the work you provide and it has the same financial result for them.
  • Re-calculate your consulting fees. In the consulting fees model, would your full-time salary at a non-profit be the same as in the business world? It’s worth considering.
  • Charge a fair rate, with consideration for in-kind benefits. See if there’s a way to negotiate benefits for your business, such as having your name printed on materials, being mentioned in press releases, receiving links from their website, getting attention in their newsletter and so on. If you set this up and truly value that exposure, you’re not actually discounting.

I’m sure a few readers will say that I’m being unkind to charities. I’m not. I just question why I should act like a charity when asked to work with a charity. It might be a little different if I truly value and embrace the charity. But I don’t think all charities merit discounts.