For its third annual survey of architecture firms participating in its "1%" pro bono program, Public Architecture got a little help from the Harvard Business School, adding depth and breadth to the survey. "The 1%" program, launched in 2005, challenges architecture firms of all sizes and scopes to pledge a minimum of 1 percent of their billable hours to pro bono work—whether architectural or interior design, feasibility studies, needs assessments, or any other service.
"The 1% Third Annual Firm Survey," conducted in late 2009, queried 560 architecture firms pledged to the program about their pro bono work over the previous 12 months, drilling down to details such as firms' motivations for doing pro bono work, the types of projects they take on and the types they'd like to do more of, how they find the work, and the factors that limit their ability to take on more pro bono projects.
According to the survey, about 70 percent of the firms that responded gave 2 percent or more of their time to pro bono services; another 6 percent contributed more than 20 percent of their time to pro bono work.
"Motivations for taking on pro bono work appear to remain pretty steady," says John Cary, Public Architecture's executive director. Many motivating factors increased significantly since the previous 2008 survey, including "giving back to the community," "creative opportunities," "improving firm reputation/image," "contributes to marketing efforts," and "employee retention and recruitment."
"Personal satisfaction" also remains a key motivator among "The 1%" firms. "In this down economy, there are a lot of down emotions, and this type of work provides a level and a type of personal and professional fulfillment that I think is only more valuable during times like this," Cary says. "The power of personal fulfillment is not insignificant."
In selecting pro bono projects, the survey found that the three most important variables are: social relevance; design opportunity; and project type. Personal connection and the likelihood of a project actually being constructed or implemented also ranked high as important factors.
The largest contributors to firms' taking on pro bono work, according to respondents, were increased client readiness and community or client benefit, as well as a greater selection of potential pro bono clients and better project opportunities.
Facilities renovation and facilities needs assessments were the types of pro bono services most often performed by surveyed firms, followed by interior design and brand integration, health and sustainable environments, capital campaign materials, accessibility and code compliance, and facilities search and identification. Firms also indicated the most interest in performing more facilities needs assessments and accessibility and code compliance work.