134 Hours of Loving Stitches
and Pro Bono Invoicing
Principle of Giving:
Giving as Investment
The second best thing after a gift itself is the way of giving it.
My mother recently gave me a beautiful quilt she spent the winter making for me. The intricate pattern is called Stormy Seas, a swirl of blues, greens, and grays. It covers the entire surface of my bed with its beauty. Over the years, my mother has sewn many such quilts for her family. Her gifts show us how she acknowledges and celebrates our individuality. Each of her grandchildren has a quilt uniquely their own. The quilts serve as a loving legacy of her creativity, skill, and generosity. One day, shortly after my mother finished my quilt, we were talking about all the quilts she has made. Mom mentioned that she kept a record of all the hours she spent doing each of her quilts. It recorded the demands of her time and skills with respect to different patterns and techniques she utilized. Of course, my next question was, “How many hours did you spend on my quilt?” She smiled and said, “One hundred and thirty-four hours.” I must have looked a bit surprised because she quickly reassured me that she wasn’t telling me to cause worry or guilt for the work and time she had given. She was telling me because she thought I would appreciate knowing, which I did. It also gave us both the opportunity to be grateful that, at the age of 80, she is still healthy and able to use her significant skill to give in such a meaningful way.
This encounter made me think about the way we approach the pro bono work we do. Pro bono is Latin and means literally “for the good.” It is a gift of our professional time and talents. Unfortunately, it is typically offered with little mindfulness of its true value. This leaves not only ourselves, but also the recipients of our work uninformed and unaware. There can be several reasons why we avoid keeping and providing records when we volunteer our expertise. But often the main reason has to do with the way we were raised.
Many of us, from childhood, were taught that giving should be done in complete anonymity. We were instructed that any reward is found solely in the giving and not in receiving acknowledgement for the gift given. The Bible admonishes us to give without fanfare, “…do not let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.” (Matthew 6:-4) However, bragging loudly about every contribution we make usually isn’t a problem. Most people, especially women, wouldn’t be caught dead doing that! This makes me wonder if we have applied this biblical wisdom too haphazardly across all forms of giving. While sometimes it is very appropriate to give in anonymity or even secrecy, other gifts could benefit both givers and receivers by providing more information during the giving process. After talking with my mother, I began to think more about giving “for the good” and pondered what giving principle was in play here. What my mother shared with me did not come from a place of pridefulness. Neither was it designed to make me feel indebted to her. Rather, it engaged me in a meaningful way with her gift and brought me greater appreciation. It was a powerful giving lesson. What if we were more transparent givers like my mother? Could we develop a new approach when providing pro bono services – still free of charge and obligation, but offered in a way that could better inform and inspire others? By approaching our giving with more discernment, could we ourselves find greater benefit from our contributions, encouraging a lifetime of service?
I found that the basic principle of giving drives this type of service gift. It is based upon both a natural law and a supernatural law: Everything on earth is liken to seedtime and harvest. “Whatever you sow that you also will reap.” (Galations 6:7)
In context then, every gift is a seed that yields a harvest of like gifts. When giving our services for free – pro bono – we are giving our time and our valued expertise/abilities. We are also taking time away from other work we would have been paid to complete, or perhaps taking away time from friends or families and/or time off to restore and relax. Thus, pro bono work IS valuable and quite worthy of the same monetary value as work done for a fee or salary. We can expect that when we give our services to others, because of our willingness to serve them or their mission, we will receive a harvest of the same kind. That is how life works, cause and effect. And, even more specifically, you will harvest what you sow. If you plant an apple seed – you will not get avocados, you will get apples.
When we give our expertise freely and joyfully, we will find our harvest in receiving the gift of service from other skilled and talented people. These gifts provide great value and catapult us forward in our lives and careers. Our lives become so much easier to navigate! We discover other people, like ourselves, who offer us their advice, assistance, guidance or direction simply because we have crossed paths. We are referred to others through these contacts and a web of relationships builds.
Recently, I was working with a single mother and small business owner who regretted not being able to give charitably in a financial capacity due to her limited budget. However, during the course of our conversation, she shared that she volunteered with the American Cancer Society. Upon further discussion, she mentioned that she donates graphic design work to them every year. The young mother detailed how she helped to create the promotional materials for the local chapter’s fundraisers. We began to estimate the professional value of the services she offered the charity for free – pro bono. The extent of her giving amounted to approximately $10K thus far. She was very surprised at the total! When I then suggested that she begin invoicing for her future pro bono contributions, she whole-heartedly agreed.
A pro bono invoice that details services provided has several benefits:
1) It reflects a zero balance due, but informs the charity of the true value of your professional services and provides greater appreciation of the gift for all concerned.
2) Pro bono invoices keep accurate record of what is contributed. This is important for both the recipient and the giver because it details the agreed upon services. This prevents the charity from unintentionally taking advantage of the time and/or professional skills provided. This helps to prevent any resentment on the giver’s part, making the gift of service more likely to be repeated!
3) The Pro bono invoice allows charities to more accurately calculate what services and agreements are required in the future to accomplish their projects.
4) As a giver, pro bono invoices provide the information needed to help you evaluate your giving patterns and practices.
5) Pro bono invoices can make your contributions tax deductible, if your gift serves a designate 501(c)3 charity.
Most importantly, by becoming more mindful of your giving, extraordinary possibilities become available to you. Pro bono work enables you to give valuable services, even when you have little or nothing to spare financially. It allows you the freedom to intentionally sow strategic things that you need to harvest within your own life. It is the best way to turn a personal loss of work or income into a viable asset. Utilizing the Law of Seedtime and Harvest in the correct manner extends far beyond merely “giving to get.” It places you into the flow of blessings and allows you to both give and receive within the specific areas of your life you would like to expand. And ultimately, your pro bono invoices give you a record of the ways in which you have sown for your future. It’s exciting to look back at that record as you begin to harvest those blessings in your life!
My mother continues to use her skill and creativity to bless those she loves. She gives quilts and reaps love, respect, and favor. It is obvious to all that her life is full of creativity and laughter, provisions and blessings. On the back of each quilt my mother sews for her family, she embroiders a heartfelt message. Directly below the message she composed for me I was delighted to find a perfect invoice sewn into the fabric, “134 Hours of Loving Stitches”.
Pro bono invoices provide valuable information to both givers and recipients.
Pro Bono Invoices:
- Detail services and confirm donations.
- Keep accurate record of time spent
- Provide givers with a complete picture of their giving practices
- Create an opportunity for clear and meaningful communication between givers and the organizations where they volunteer their services