Page 1

Pro Bono Design Handbook for DESIGNERS a publication of Public Architecture

A resource for architecture and design ďŹ rms interested in pro bono service.

THE 1% HAS A NEW NAME. IT’S NOW 1+ 1% was just the beginning. Now more than a decade later, architects and designers routinely donate far beyond that minimum time. Leveraging our growth, The 1% is now known as 1+.

This handbook is a resource to help architects, designers, and their offices develop the framework to incorporate pro bono design into practice. It also serves as a guide on how to find projects, either on your own or through the 1+ matching process. By promoting pro bono service as a regular part of design practice, the 1+ program enhances the profession’s engagement with the underresourced communities most in need of the benefits of design. The 1+ program of Public Architecture is an international platform for architecture and design firms to engage in pro bono design. The 1+ website allows designers to document their pro bono contributions, gain recognition, and find new project opportunities. The matching service was launched in 2007 to connect nonprofits’ facility needs with firms willing to give of their time. As of this writing in 2016, the 1+ has grown from a grassroots movement to include more than 1500 firms across the U.S., delivering more than $55 million in pro bono services annually—a contribution that increases by the day.







“ISA likes to look at architecture broadly for the social value, the value of resources and environmental performance, and the cost structure of building. The notion that ‘great design can be affordable’ is a value that designers don’t talk about enough.” Brian Phillips, Founder of ISA (Interface Studio Architects) in Philadelphia, PA

© Interface Studio Architects


To get started, conduct an internal assessment of the resources that your firm is able to invest in pro bono service. We recommend starting with 1% of working hours. That typically amounts to just 20 hours per employee per year. It’s up to the firm to decide how many staff get involved, whether it makes sense for just one staff member or the entire office. Many firms find that they are able to do more than 1%, or 1+, especially if they are proactive about how these services can be used it as tool to address some of the firm’s core goals.

1 Assess


Firm assessment

Stakeholder meeting Managing pro bono work doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch even if your office is just starting out. Your firm’s existing project management structure can provide the framework to organize and set expectations for pro bono projects. The management of pro bono projects should be fundamentally the same as that for paid clients, including regular invoicing. By following a few key steps, pro bono work can be integrated into your firm’s practice.

Assemble the principals and key decision-makers to determine the firm’s goals and values, and how this will impact its commitment to pro bono work. Often times, a firm’s values will determine which project types they pursue. For example, Anne Fougeron’s personal interest in women’s health led to a 20-plus year pro bono partnership between Fougeron Architecture and Bay Area Planned Parenthood.

Areas to grow Pro bono work offers an opportunity to explore a heretoforeunexplored sector of your profession. Firms with expertise in highend residential can branch out into daycare facilities or build an emergency shelter at a local park. Outside of the constraints of traditional practice, there can be both the opportunity for greater creative freedom and new project types.

pro bono design handbook | 5

Once you assess your firm’s resources, determine how your firm will structure its pro bono work. Having an organizational strategy to manage the load of pro bono projects will increase the likelihood of good outcomes and limit budget overruns.

Tracking Designers often confess that they don’t account for their pro bono hours. Tracking your pro bono project hours will help you manage your investment and communicate the value of your service to your nonprofit client.

1 Assess


Invoicing Regular distribution of invoices—even if they reflect a zero balance— allows the firm and the client to have a mutual understanding of the value of services delivered.

Liability Liability exposure is primarily the same for pro bono work as for paid work. There are contractual provisions that can help you manage the limits of your exposure that are appropriate for pro bono clients. We recommend that you consult your legal council to determine the best agreement for you and your client.

Contracts A contract allows both sides to clearly express and understand expectations for the project, and can benefit the partnership even if no money changes hands. Some firms modify their firm’s standard contract. Others have used the AIA’s Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect for Pro Bono Services, AIA B106– 2010, available free of charge on the AIA website. You should discuss the approach you choose with your attorney.

pro bono design handbook | 7

Opportunities for staff • Pro bono work can provide a unique opportunity to participate in “choosing” projects. • Where appropriate, firms can create opportunities for junior staff to advance their project experience. • Most firms report that pro bono work gives staff a feeling of personal satisfaction from working with a mission-based organization.

1 Assess


Recruitment and retention Incorporating pro bono services as part of design practice has been shown to benefit many firms’ business models. The following represents the most common ways that an integrated pro bono practice can work to a firm’s advantage.

• Job-seeking designers often look to work for firms with a social conscience. • Local, high-impact projects can play a role in employee retention by actively engaging staff in the development of the surrounding community.

Business expansion • Pro bono work can be a great initial step to expand into new regions or market sectors. • It can expand your client pool through word-of-mouth endorsements, new networks, and press exposure. • Pro bono work can facilitate new client relationships locally, particularly appealing for firms whose work is mostly in other states or countries.

New creative prospects • Pro bono work can enliven your practice by pursuing interesting design challenges with real consequences. • Pro bono relationships often lead to opportunities for designers to creatively address their client’s large-scale strategic issues.

pro bono design handbook | 9

PRO BONO TEAM STRUCTURE Find the organizational strategy that works best your firm. Here are three of the most common ways to structure pro bono teams in design offices. Dedicated team Assemble dedicated staff to pro bono projects. For instance, Perkins+Will, one of the largest firms in the country, has at least one designer in every office devoted to managing the Social Responsibility Initiative (SRI). Perkins+Will launched SRI in 2008 to increase the beneficial social impact of their work.

Rotating team You can allow all staff to participate in pro bono projects on a rotating basis. At Jova/Daniels/Busby in Atlanta, junior staff pitches pro bono projects to senior staff, allowing them to take leadership roles on projects they initiate.

In-house design competitions Pro bono projects can be a great method for generating excitement among the staff. EHDD Architecture organized an internal design competition for an outdoor seating area at the Randall Museum in San Francisco. Museum staff, former clients and local politicians sat on the jury, creating an additional opportunity for networking and community outreach.

Perkins+Will + The Center for Victims of Torture, The CVT Headquarters, St. Paul, MN © Brandon Stengel


Connect with nonprofits • Seek out organizations whose mission aligns with your firm’s values. • Meet with your staff to determine if they have any pre-existing personal or professional relationships with nonprofits. • Identify a worthy design need in your community and reach out to an organization whose mission it is to address such needs. • Conduct due diligence on nonprofit candidates using the database of groups such as, a site that gathers and shares the financial and programmatic information of nonprofits.

2 Commit


Assess the project This step-by-step guide is broadly applicable to the process of matching with a nonprofit on a project, whether finding projects on the 1+ website or on your own. A firm’s leadership and their ties to the community often determine which pro bono projects the firm will take on.

• Vet the project’s potential, ask questions and communicate your contribution goals to the nonprofit. How can both parties support one another’s goals? • Assess whether the client shares your expectations for design quality. • Appraise the nonprofit’s ability to secure the financial resources to complete the project. Know that if your work isn’t realized, the value is lost.

Communicate with the nonprofit client • Set a clear method for decision-making early in the relationship with the nonprofit to help keep the project on course. Staying on task with clarity of purpose and disciplined decision-making is difficult to do without the exchange of money. It requires continuous frank and direct communication between designer and client. Greater clarity at this stage will diminish the risk of future misunderstanding.

pro bono design handbook | 13

Log in to and register your firm by clicking JOIN in the main navigation menu. Fill out the questionnaire requesting basic information. To create your firm’s 1+ profile, pledge your firm’s annual pro bono commitment (number of hours), describe your pro bono philosophy and any existing nonprofit relationships, and upload images that represent your firm. As part of your pro bono pledge, you can opt-in or opt-out of receiving nonprofits’ requests for services. Once this information is entered, select SUBMIT at the bottom of the page.

2 Commit


Join the 1+ and make your commitment

Complete your profile and post past projects The 1+ offers a convenient alternative to find pro bono projects. By 2016, firms participating in the program helped nearly one thousand nonprofits seeking pro bono design services. Follow these easy steps to register your firm online, pledge your percentage, and gain access to a pool of nonprofit projects.

Your firm’s 1+ profile tells a story about your past contributions, project interests, and availability to take on new projects. Log in, then click ADD TO PORTFOLIO to document pro bono projects found outside of the 1+. All projects uploaded to your profile will be searchable on the EXPLORE page.

pro bono design handbook | 15

As a registered participant, you can browse all active nonprofit project listings and have access to the matching service. Firms may inquire with an unlimited number of nonprofits at any time.

2 Commit


Find projects and connect with nonprofits

• Click EXPLORE in the main navigation and filter the results to see projects that are currently looking for a match. • Click a project to review the summary and service request. Begin evaluating your design goals with the nonprofit’s request for services.

The 1+ offers a convenient alternative to find pro bono projects. By 2016, firms participating in the program helped nearly one thousand nonprofits seeking pro bono design services. Follow these easy steps to register your firm online, pledge your percentage, and gain access to a pool of nonprofit projects.

• If interested, click I’M INTERESTED and the system will automatically generate an inquiry email which you may edit and then send to the nonprofit. With the first inquiry sent to a nonprofit, the system automatically changes the match status to EXPRESSED INTEREST. Inquiries expire after one month when no response is received. If the nonprofit responds positively to the inquiry, the project status becomes BOTH INTERESTED. At this stage, we advise the firm and nonprofit to arrange a meeting to discuss the project in depth and determine if the partnership could be a good fit. You may send reminders as deadlines approach by choosing SEND REMINDER on MY MATCHING page.

Confirm the match If the nonprofit and your firm agree to work together, choose AGREEMENT REACHED on MY MATCHING page and initial the form to confirm the match. Once the match is confirmed, the project is INPROGRESS and is no longer visible to other firms on the 1+ website.

Add additional designers If you and the nonprofit feel the project will benefit from additional design resources, either of you may click FIND ADDITIONAL DESIGNER on the project’s page to search for another design firm and invite them to join you.

Architecture Interior Design Landscape Architecture Engineering Urban Design & Planning Sustainability & More Have questions along the way? Send an email to

pro bono design handbook | 17

You may invite designers from any design service category, including your own, to join the project. Interdisciplinary teams are welcomed and encouraged. 1+ design services are categorized by the following disciplines:


designer handbook | 18

Facility needs assessment Assess a nonprofit’s facilities needs to see how it accommodates their staff, programs, culture, resources, and anticipated growth.

2 Commit


Capital campaign materials Produce illustrative material to help launch a capital campaign to raise funds for a new facility or renovation.

Building or space identification Visit and analyze potential future locations, helping a nonprofit select one that fits their needs, whether to purchase or lease.

There are many types of projects for which nonprofits may request pro bono services. The list that follows is not exhaustive, but was informed by a survey of the first 150 firms to pledge their time through the 1+ program. It represents some of the most common projects that design firms can help nonprofit organizations to accomplish.

Brand development Integrate an organization’s brand and values into its interior and exterior spaces to effectively convey their mission.

Interiors Adjust interior elements to reflect culture and meet operational needs. Interior projects include space planning, programming, fixtures, furnishings, and even the location or relocation of walls and other structures.

Sustainability plan and certification Work with a nonprofit to meet their sustainability goals. Lighting controls, daylighting, improving mechanical systems and other green technologies can save clients money in the long term and lower their environmental impact. The 1+ program is partnering with the AIA and EPA to match ENERGY STAR-eligible buildings owned by nonprofits and government agencies with architects and engineers willing to verify applications on a cost-free, “pro bono” basis.

Accessibility Support equitable access to nonprofit services by designing and integrating accessibility options. While accessibility can be a difficult design problem, successful solutions can deeply impact the ability of nonprofits to provide service to their clients.


New Building Work with a nonprofit to plan, design, and oversee construction of buildings.

Facilities Renovation Work with a nonprofit to optimize an existing facility to meet current needs.

pro bono design handbook | 19

Guide nonprofits in the analysis, planning, design, management, and stewardship of natural and built outdoor environments. Landscape projects include parks, monuments, streetscapes and public outdoor spaces, transportation, gardens, security design, institutional and academic campuses, and more.

“They wanted a building that did more good than harm to the environment. The 1+ program allowed us to propose the additional hours towards pursuing [Living Building] certification as part of our pro bono work that we annually perform for nonprofits.” Tenna Florian, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, Associate Partner at Lake | Flato Architects, San Antonio, TX

LAKE | FLATO ARCHITECTS + The Dixon Water Foundation, The Betty and Clint Josey Pavilion, Decatur, TX © Dror Baldinger


Collaborative relationship Working in collaboration with a nonprofit can have long lasting benefits for your firm and staff. Not only is it an opportunity to educate the client on the value of quality design, the immersive nature of these projects invests your staff in the nonprofit’s mission and community. Pro bono projects often rely on rallying other local stakeholders and the ability of the design team to bring the nonprofit, local government, and local citizenry together to work towards a common solution.

13 Assess Partner


Nurture new relationships As your firm provides design services for a nonprofit, remember to treat them as a partner throughout the process of development, implementation and realization of the project.

Pro bono service can expand your firm’s network to include individuals with deep roots in the local philanthropic community. Establishing a relationship with an institutional client can be valuable considering that one third of all architectural projects belong to institutional organizations. To add to that, Sid Scott of Scott Edwards Architects observes that pro bono projects can lead to paid work in the future. As a general rule, 20% of architectural services are for repeat customers.

Publicize pro bono work Don’t be shy about celebrating your pro bono clients: give exposure to your projects on your website, in local media, and within your office. A good way to promote your project is to promote your client. It can help build their capacity and yours. To that end, pro bono work should be highlighted to your paying clients as well. Mike McCall of McCall Design Group recalls securing a corporate client by including the pro bono project his firm completed for Goodwill Industries of San Francisco in the firm’s portfolio.

pro bono bono design design handbook handbook || 23 23 pro

1+ Case Study Series The 1+ Case Studies are an on-going series of case studies that feature projects by AIA, IIDA, and ASID members who are making pro bono service an integral part of design practice. The 1+ Case Studies and other digital publications of Public Architecture may be found online at

13 Assess Partner


EXPLORE the 1+ By clicking EXPLORE, you can search through the members and projects posted on the website. Click on a project to see the description and details.

The 1+ program is a critical component of Public Architecture’s advocacy and outreach campaigns. We conduct case studies on a regular basis to distill best practices and have a number of other project resources to further assist designers committed to social change.

Firm Surveys Firm Surveys represents the first and most comprehensive quantitative survey to measure pro bono practice in the architecture and design professions. Since 2006, the annual survey collects data from architecture and design firms nationwide—from single person offices to the largest US firms. Firm Surveys may be found online at

The Public Dialog The Public Dialog is a blog by Public Architecture that seeks to advance our understanding of design thinking as tool for social change. How can designers effectively work for underserved communities? What is the impact of the built environment on our lives? What is the role and value of pro bono service for the design profession? How do we measure design’s effectiveness?

Social Media Connect with us @pubarch!

More resources produced by Public Architecture

pro pro bono bono design design handbook handbook || 25 25

Public Architecture uses resource publications to share best practices and advocate for social impact design. They include The Power of Pro Bono, a book published by Metropolis in 2010 that profiles 40 pro bono projects from across the United States committed to design for the public good. Additionally, Public Architecture offers a library of free downloadable resources including this guide as well as Design for Reuse Primer, Sustainability for Nonprofits, and numerous more.

“We got support from clients who heard we were doing this project; for instance, a little school outside of Boston hired us to do a small faculty housing project. The school specifically mentioned that they wanted to work with us because we were doing a pro bono project.” William T. Ruhl, AIA, Principal of Ruhl Walker Architects, Boston, MA

Ruhl Walker Architects + Hawaii Wildlife Center, Hawaii Wildlife Center, Halaula, HI © Ethan Tweedie

Credits Pro Bono Design Handbook is a publication of Public Architecture Editor Amy Ress Assistant Editor Alison Malouf Thanks to Public Architecture staff and volunteers who contributed to the first edition of this publication. Designed by Kay Cheng. Thanks to 1+ firm contributors Fougeron Architecture, McCall Design Group, Jova/ Daniels/Busby, EHDD Architecture, Perkins+Will, Interface Studio Architects, Lake | Flato, The Miller Hull Partnership, and Ruhl Walker Architects On the Cover Robert Hull + University of Washington, Gohar Khatoon Girls’ School, Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan © Nic Lehoux Public Architecture is a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in San Francisco. It engages architecture firms, nonprofits, and manufacturers to commit to design for the public good through its nationally recognized 1+ program; it acts to bring about positive community change through public-interest design initiatives and pro bono design service grants; and it shares the potential of design to change the world through advocacy and outreach. The first edition of this publication was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, This guide is licensed by Public Architecture under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoncommercialShare Alike 3.0 United States License: First Edition, 2010 Second Edition, 2016

Pro Bono Design Handbook for Designers  
Pro Bono Design Handbook for Designers  

This handbook is a resource to help architecture and design firms develop the framework to incorporate pro bono design into practice. It als...