What is a freindor? This creature is a (sometimes) dangerous combination of a friend or business acquaintance who coincidentally provides goods or services that you need for a program or an event you are producing. Maybe it is a florist who could make the centerpieces for your gala; maybe it is an accountant who offers to write your annual budget or 990, or a volunteer who does IT during the day who offers to help manage your website after hours.
The Best Intentions, Most of the Time
Sometimes though, those good intentions can be accompanied by some unfortunate unintended consequences:
- It might be the accountant keeps excellent records but is not experienced in the special requirements of nonprofit accounting and tax return preparation.
The tax return has errors, is selected for audit and requires amendments, redoing and re-submission.
- This might be the neighbor who offers to help out at the office, but has no background in nonprofit programs and work; he needs to stop and ask you for guidance quite frequently.
The interruptions cause your own work to back up and the frequent distraction allows something important to slip between the cracks.
- This might be from the guy who is an amazing chef, but has not managed off-site catering events that require dinner service scheduling organized around a program and presentation schedule.
The meal service interrupts and conflicts with the speaker schedule and disrupts the program schedule for the evening.
- The florist does beautiful work for high end clients and didn’t realize you wanted a centerpiece for every table. Then she got a big paid-for order the week before and got squashed for time.
The centerpieces were sparse, and delivered way late. The sign-in table bouquet never arrived at all.
Devil in the Details
As with so many things, the devil is in the details; when those details are not handled properly, the resulting extra time and effort to make things right can be costly; in time and energy, and possibly for the relationship between you.
Despite your tax-exempt status, it is only smart to realize that you are running a business, and the business services must be performed by someone with specific and relevant experience. Costs to your organization are not limited to money; many of your resources can end up be stretched too thin. Disappointment, frustration and extra time can be a higher price than money.
The Road To Hell
However well-meaning the offer, if the work you need can’t be done to a professional standard, there can be negative consequences in the perception of the organization to donors and other supporters. Despite all the calls for the lowest possible overhead, a poorly presented work product can look sloppy or amateur, and this can hurt the reputation you have worked hard to polish.
A second danger is the possible breakdown in the relationship you had with this person or firm. While their intentions may have been honorable and true, the delivery problems are now in your lap. It can be tough to complain or demand repair or more when they felt they were offering so much to your program. Hurt feelings, legitimate or not, can linger and taint future dealings.
Be thoughtful before accepting help from a freindor; decide what part of that word is more important to you, the friend or the vendor. Just as best friends should never be roommates and we don’t hire friends, the same caveat exists here.
But, if you want to proceed:
Be clear with your expectations and requirements. Even if it is a brief one-page agreement, write down the important elements:
- what you expect,
- when you need it and
- what the exchange will be between your organization and their work for you.
Sometimes that ‘ I’ll do it for free’ friend will end up costing more than money in the long run. Protect your event, your organization and your relationship with a clear agreement.
Saying no to a sincere offer can be tough, but living with the consequences of a freindor relationship gone wrong can be worse.
Caveat Emptor: sometimes free is worth what it costs you.