What rate should I charge a nonprofit for web & db development work?
June 9, 2006 10:49 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking at taking on a freelance consulting project for a nonprofit in the SF Bay Area that involves creating web interfaces to a SQL Server backend. This would be my first non-voluntary (i.e., >$0) freelance project. What rate should I ask for?

From what I can tell, the nonprofit is fairly large, professional, and supported by corporate donations, so it appears I should ask for something reasonable (albiet still a non-profit rate). Thanks!
posted by treepour to Work & Money (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I used to sell web development to non-profits. IMHO, there is no such thing as a non-profit rate. It's a marketing gimmick used by some organizations. Charge what the market will bear. You could justify going in a little low because there is definite non-monetary value in getting your first referenceable, paying client. If you go in too low they won't take you serious.

Congrats on that BTW!
posted by COD at 11:15 AM on June 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

I agree with COD - most non-profits will pull the 'we're non-profit - we don't have any money' card while paying their leaders/managers handsomely.

Go for a good market rate.
posted by jimmy0x52 at 11:53 AM on June 9, 2006

Considering it's your first paying gig, i would offer the client a very reasonable rate, on the low side of the usual freelance rate, and work your ass off. Over-deliver.

You need references to build a business. Having this first client singing your praises will get you started on the right foot. If you blow it, then of course you can't use them as a reference ... it's like you have to find and do job #1 over again.
posted by Artful Codger at 2:11 PM on June 9, 2006

Best answer: In my experience, there are regular rates and non-profit rates. This is because the non-profit market will not bear the same rate as the for-profit market. In general, actual salaries in the non-profit market are lower, too, so it's really a reflection of the non-profit market's dynamics. When people say they have a cut rate for non-profits, what they really mean is that they charge a rate that is acceptable to the non-profit market. (I could point you to a length article I wrote about setting consulting fees, but I don't want to risk a self-link. So please feel free to contact me if you want it.)

COD is bang on in saying that you want to offer tremendous value to your first paying, referenceable client. Your first client helps open doors. They may hire you again, tell their friends about you, serve as a reference for other companies, or, by virtue of their own name, simply give you credibility. So be fair. But don't charge a poverty rate either.
posted by acoutu at 2:37 PM on June 9, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks very much, all, for the advice. I will be wary of the greedy non-profit syndrome, but I don't suspect it of this one; and I completely agree that this first gig is indeed much more about building reputation than income.

acoutu, I would be very interested in reading the article -- thanks for offering it. If there's a way to contact you privately via mefi, I haven't yet discovered it. Perhaps you'd consider posting a link?

Thank you again.
posted by treepour at 4:52 PM on June 9, 2006

Response by poster: And thanks very much for the congrats, COD!
posted by treepour at 4:53 PM on June 9, 2006

Another way around this is to charge your "regular" rate on an invoice, clearly show a deduction labeled "in-kind donation" for a portion and bill the rest.

The non-profit gets a better rate and you can deduct the donation on your taxes.

IANAAccountant but I have seen this done multiple times on the non-profit side.
posted by karmaville at 8:49 PM on June 9, 2006

Karmaville, do note that the person doing the donation still has to declare the revenue from the pre-donation amount. Talk to an accountant before doing this.

Treepour, I don't want to be accused of setting myself up for a self-link. However, I changed the bottom of my profile page so that the feedback form from my ConsultantJournal.com site is obvious. I thought you might see the "contact" page on the site, but I guess that's really asking Mefites to dig around a lot!
posted by acoutu at 8:49 PM on June 11, 2006

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