The pros of pro bono

The McGuffin Grant is our annual $25,000 creative services donation to a deserving nonprofit looking to expand their mission through marketing. As we approach the tenth year of the McGuffin Grant, McGuffin Creative Group’s President and Chief Creative Officer Chris Sculles reflects on what inspired the creation of the Grant, and why all companies should dedicate a portion of their budget to pro bono work.

What led to the creation of the McGuffin Grant?

We started helping nonprofits the year we opened our doors. One of our early efforts, prior to the actual formation of the Grant, was as a co-supporter of a nonprofit on the west side of Chicago. It was a worthwhile experience, but one that opened our eyes a bit. We thought the process could be improved upon.

Talk about the guiding philosophy of the first McGuffin Grant.

We designed the McGuffin Grant to ensure that pro bono clients received the same level of service and support as paying clients. Many nonprofits work with limited budgets and small teams, so they’re grateful for any support they receive and any resource they pull in. Unfortunately, this “scarcity mentality” isn’t always the best mindset for a successful marketing campaign.

McGuffin brings a more concerted effort to the table. Our proven agency process, consistency and structure help nonprofit clients get much more out of the relationship — a better marketing of their mission, product and service to the community, and a much better chance of accomplishing their goals.

How can marketing and creative services help a nonprofit organization further its mission?

Creative marketing helps nonprofits across the board — in branding, rebranding, renaming, communications, design, strategy, you name it. It’s all vital to accomplishing pro bono goals. Over the years, McGuffin has supported clients—at different points in their growth process — with everything from capital campaigns to website development. We’ve enjoyed many successes along the way.

Tell us how the Grant has evolved over the years. 

We put our hearts and souls into this. So the Grant review process can be emotional and labor intensive. We’ve adjusted it over the years and now have a more efficient method for application review that ensures all applicants receive the necessary time and attention. We then have a Grant Task Force review a narrowed pool of applicants based on the first round of review.

Any significant changes in the process that applicants should know about? 

Jumping through unnecessary hoops is the last thing we want for our applicants. We’ve simplified the submission process utilizing a Google form with a limited, digestible set of questions that provide the necessary information to the Task Force team. We’re always looking to improve the process, and I believe we’ll continue to make improvements, as is our nature as a creative group.

What makes for a successful Grant application? 

First and foremost, we’re looking for companies whose values and mission align with ours — companies who seek to help others, practice diplomacy and walk with humble confidence. A key element we look for in all applications is a specific goal the organization has in mind and how $25,000 in creative services will help them reach that goal. A specific event, campaign or rebranding need allows us to envision and get excited about the work ahead.

Once a winner is chosen, how does McGuffin approach the partnership? How is it similar to or different from other clients? 

We treat our Grant recipient with the same structure as our paying clients. Each initiative begins with a brief that defines project goals and deliverables that we all sit down and agree on together. From there, we assemble the right team to carry the initiative through.

Do you believe it’s important for agencies to do pro bono work? 

It’s not only important, it’s essential. We believe that every for-profit company should set aside a portion of time and talent in their annual budget to help others. And that’s when business is running as usual. Especially in times of crisis, as we are experiencing now with COVID-19, we need to help those who help others. We spend so much time working to maintain stability and foster growth for our clients, it’s only fair that we do the same for a nonprofit that is doing good, on a mission we align with.

Any final thoughts to share on the McGuffin Grant?

Of all the things we’ve accomplished at McGuffin Creative Group, founding the McGuffin Grant—developing the program, meeting the nonprofits, supporting their needs and, sometimes, the needs of the planet—is one of the things I am most proud of. I’m also tremendously proud of the talented McGuffins who put in the time to do the great work we’ve created together.