Nonprofit Freelancing: Lessons From Vancouver

Freelancer Dot Com(Special thanks to Nik Badminton for taking time out of his schedule for this discussion. What follows is a general summary).

When I wrote my recent review of The Economy of You, I might have expected more discussion around the challenges of social venture/nonprofit freelancing. However, I was elated when Nik Badminton of reached out for the opportunity to discuss the matter. We had a great discussion about social venture/nonprofit freelancing, especially coming from a Canadian perspective. (Nik is located in Vancouver, BC). Despite the geographic distance, there are many resources and lessons from Vancouver that can influence how Chicago area social venture/nonprofit freelancers work….and how social ventures/nonprofits can work and function more effectively.

Ironically, despite a team of data scientists at and a large selection of data, there is very little data specific to freelance services for social ventures and nonprofits. Much of it may be related to limited revenues, with social ventures and nonprofits focusing on “bang for the buck”. (There are a handful of such organizations using freelance services, but that takes further data exploraiton). However, with the increase in startup incubators (including those focused

specifically on mission-driven organizations), discussion is increasingly focused on running an organization in the most cost-effective manner. Some organizations do use as a platform for driving projects, such as the New Leaf Clubhouse’s recent efforts to hold a contest to create a new logo.New Leaf Clubhouse Logo


One of the more hopeful trends within nonprofits is the adoption of the “lean startup” approach in running their organizations. Increasingly, more established nonprofits are taking an approach of “build/learn/adapt” in streamlining their operations. (More established organizations area also more likely to use freelancers than startup organizations). During our discussion, we identified three key concerns for nonprofits and social ventures:

  1. Operations: with a tendency towards business process outsourcing, nonprofits & social ventures have to keep their accounting relatively tight (especially in nonprofit campaign execution);
  2. Crowdsourcing: although crowdsourcing can be an effective method for fundraising, organizations are challenged to integrate it as part of a holistic marketing approach; and
  3. Agility: for more established organizations, factors such as staff longevity make it much harder to be agile, but adopting a lean startup model (with test/experiment cycles) and smaller approaches can have a positive impact. (Good examples of nonprofits adopting more agile thinking are We Day and the Wikimedia Foundation.)

However, there are many tools present that Vancouver-area nonprofits are using….and that Chicago nonprofits may want to consider. (One of the advantages of web-based tools is that many are often independent of geography). Some of the tools Nik and I discussed were:

Nonprofit freelancing in Chicago can be a challenge in terms of finding clients and performing the actually work. One of the themes that emerged from my conversation with Nik Badminton of is that many nonprofits (and social ventures) are working to adapt to a changing field. Adopting more of a lean startup mentality can have positive impacts on an agency. There are many lessons that Chicago nonprofits and social ventures can learn from sister agencies in Vancouver, and hopefully, we can begin taking those lessons to heart.

Do you have experience finding (or performing) freelance work in the social venture and/or nonprofit arena? Please let us know by leaving a comment below. In addition, you’re more than welcome to follow the blog via e-mail (directions listed below) or our Facebook page. Personal contact information can be found via the blog’s About page.

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