Helping Nonprofits Hop on the Web

Jackrabbit Design's pro bono work benefits charitable organizations.

Dave Belyea is a partner and the account manager with Jackrabbit Design, a Milton-based design firm. Together with fellow partner and creative director Sharon Mulcahy, Belyea has made giving back to the community a part of Jackrabbit’s culture since its founding in 1999. Belyea spoke with columnist Julie Fay about the firm’s pro bono work, and how doing good helps the firm do well, too.

Describe your pro bono work.
We offer marketing communications design services. Many organizations need a website, and that’s usually our biggest giveaway, but we do anything that’s marketing related, like brochures, logos, emailers, flyers, and presentations. 

How do you handle requests for pro bono services?
We’ve done it on a case-by-case basis over the past twelve years. We’d get folks that come in and say, “My son passed away from cancer, and I’ve created a fund to raise money for cancer and cancer awareness. I need to get a website and I don’t have much money.” In the past, I’ve weighed the opportunity and workload, and often volunteered our services pro bono. We’ve made the decision based on our bandwidth at the time – how much we’ve got going on.

This year, we’ve streamlined the process through our “” program. We wanted to promote our pro bono services, and to organize an initiative for our own sanity. Through Carrots for a Cause, we give away a $50,000 website, and it’s open to any 501(c)(3) organization. We choose ten finalists, they promote it via social media, and the winner is selected through voting on our website.

The whole promotion took a month and a half this year. We sent out thousands of emails to nonprofit organizations, sent press releases and worked the machine the best we could. I was expecting between fifty and a hundred entrants, and I got twelve. I was really down, but the great news is that with the ten finalists, it went viral. Finalists were very proactive on Facebook and Twitter, and all of a sudden we were getting thousands on thousands of votes. That’s where it really came to life. Everyone was putting us in their email signatures. That was really, really cool.

Our winner this year was Good Sports out of Quincy, an organization that provides sports equipment to inner-city youth. They were the most proficient social media and email marketing people. Everyone’s all geared up for the next promotion (in the spring of 2012) and I think it will be really well-received.

How does Jackrabbit’s pro bono work help make the world a better place?
By creating an easy to use, wonderful-looking website, our pro bono groups are more easily able to communicate their message to their constituents, donors and the media. They also have a website then can update themselves. There are a lot of shady characters out there who want you to pay them for every (website) change. We make every client self-sufficient. We train them on how to manage their sites with a great content management system, so they don’t have to learn HTML code.

For example, we did some work for Horizons for Homeless Children. With their new website, which we’re hoping will go live in the next couple of weeks, parents in dire need can search for shelters by zip code, and find other services to help them. We’re also just wrapping up new sites for the Boston Red Sox Foundation and the Genesis Fund, both pro bono.

Why do you give away your services?
Jackrabbit does it because we want to give back in some way, shape or form to the community. Whatever we can do as a team with our skills and somehow give back, that (ethic) is instilled from day one at the company

As the guy who is responsible for generating new business, the reason I do it is that it allows me to expand my network on a feel-good footstep. It gives me a ‘warm and fuzzy’ approach and allows me to prove to them that we are a solid, reputable and community-driven organization. It opens a lot of doors that cold calling and direct mail aren’t going to open.

We can’t do everything for free, but over the course of a year, we can handle one big pro bono project. We’d encourage organizations to enter our next Carrots for a Cause initiative in the spring.

To learn more about Jackrabbit’s Carrots for a Cause 2011 winner, visit http://www.jumpingjackrabbit.com/carrotsforacause/vote/winner.php.


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