Many freelance writers don’t give much thought to writing for nonprofit organizations, but some nonprofits pay writers quite well. Here’s my story…
Freelance Writing for a Higher Education Nonprofit
I’m primarily a higher education writer. I create various materials for college-level textbooks and courses, typically test questions, instructor’s manuals, lecture outlines, student study guides, and the like. If this interests you, check out my Writing College Textbook Supplements e-book (and the clickable cover is in the side column to the right).
I recently completed a textbook supplement project – test questions and an instructor’s manual — for a nonprofit organization.
The Nonprofit Found My Higher Education Writer Website Through a Google Search
This points out the importance of learning and applying good SEO principles for blog posts and websites.
This nonprofit is involved with training scientists in research techniques that will help them do better research and win more grant money.
The Nonprofit Asked Me to Bid on the Project
They said they had two other writers under consideration.
I asked for sample chapters of the book they had created to train researchers, along with details of exactly what they wanted in terms of numbers and types of questions (they wanted multiple-choice questions and essay questions) and the specifics of what should be in the instructor’s manual.
I computed how long it would take to do the project and then created a bid based on my desired hourly rate. They accepted my bid and we were off and rolling.
The Contract Had a Nondisclosure Clause
These are common in many of the higher education contracts I sign, so I can’t tell you the specific nonprofit or the details of the subject matter and work.
It Was Steady Work and Income for Nearly a Year
It was an on-going part-time project that paid about $1000 per month for about ten months. I like knowing I have some steady work, which is uncommon for many freelance writers.
It Paid Quite Well
I made about 80-100 bucks an hour. I’ve heard that some nonprofits have limited budgets and pay less than for-profit businesses, but that was not the case here.
Payment Was Prompt
In fact, it’s far faster than the 4-8 weeks most higher education companies take to cut and send a check. I was paid within two weeks of submitting an invoice.
What Types of Writing Do Nonprofits Need?
The answer: they need all types of writing. It’s best to think of nonprofits as businesses. Any type of writing a business could need is also fair game. Examples:
- Press releases
- Newsletters, print and electronic
- Sales letters
- Website copy
- Blog posts
- Case studies
Freelance writer Alan Kravitz specializes in creating content for nonprofits. He says you should avoid small local charities if you want to make big bucks, and instead focus on large charities in the million-dollar-plus donation range. (See Charity Navigator for details on specific nonprofits.)
Should You Write for Free for a Nonprofit?
I say yes. I was on the board of directors of the Mount Shasta Trail Association for six years and I did a lot of writing for the organization, all of it for free. Of course, I’m a dedicated hiker (and hiking guide writer) and I lived in the Mount Shasta area before moving to Ashland, Oregon.
Here are guidelines for writing for nonprofits pro bono:
Write for a Good Cause
Make sure you truly support the organization’s goals. Otherwise you’ll feel uncomfortable and you won’t enjoy the process.
Write Only as Much As You Are Comfortable Writing
Be firm and put limits on the amount of writing you’re willing to do for free.
Don’t Feel Pressured
Some nonprofits may push you to do work for free you’re not comfortable doing, perhaps with a promise of a good reference or some other way of promoting your work. Follow your gut: don’t do it if it doesn’t feel right.
Have you written for nonprofit organizations, either for free or for pay? What was your experience? Any advice for us?