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I mentioned to a senior conference interpreter colleague that I was approached by an NGO to do pro-bono work.

I told her I was seriously considering it, because I'm generally supportive of that particular NGO, but also because I could gain some experience with a language I'm hoping to add to my language combination soon.

She told me to stay out of it because it would undermine the market for professional services.

What do you think?

asked 16 Oct '11, 20:35

silvia-c's gravatar image


edited 18 Aug '12, 15:00

Delete's gravatar image

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Pro-bono work is standard practice in our profession.

According to aiic's yearly statistical survey, an average of 1 day per year is pro bono work (all age groups).

Some tips:

  • Agreement to work on a volunteer basis is as binding as a paid contract.

  • You should offer the same quality as for a paid contract.

  • Working and technical conditions should be the same as usual (team strengths, language combinations and working hours) - essential for satisfactory performance.

  • It is recommended that the volunteer interpreter complete a contract form with the beneficiary, indicating that no fees are being charged, possibly indicating the amount of fees the interpreter is willing to forego.

  • In the event of missions away from home involving travel and subsistence expenses, the volunteer interpreter should first try to ensure that there are no interpreters available at the conference venue, before accepting the mission.

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answered 26 Oct '11, 09:51

Angela's gravatar image


That is a very useful clarification. So why did the senior colleague say you should steer clear from that particular assignment? It is useful to bear in mind that interpreters are not a homogeneous group but there are many conflicting interests within the profession.

(26 Oct '11, 09:58) Sirpa

Just an interesting addition, rather than a full answer. A colleague told me today that... Germany volunteers can ask for a 'donation certificate' (Spendenbescheinigung) from clients they volunteer for. This is a sort of receipt saying that by working pro bono the interpreter has effectively donated, for example, 600 euro - (a little like the "contract form" mentioned by Angela above). This is useful for a number of reasons...

  1. it makes the client aware of what interpreting is really worth.
  2. this may then have a positive effect on working conditions (which may be improved to be commensurate with the amount 'donated')
  3. also the interpreter can then write off the amount of the donation off against tax (at least in Germany).

It's well worth looking into whether this is possible in your country (and with your client)

(12 Nov '14, 08:11) Andy

Dear colleagues, I am afraid this information (tax deductibility of "donated services" in Germany) is wrong. The times where it was possible to receive a "donation certificate" (Spendenbescheinigung) for a service or something you provided in kind in Germany are over and have been for at least 15 years. Since there is no "fixed tariff" for most services (such as ours), one of the problems is that you could state any imaginable amount your service is allegedly worth on the certificate and deduct it. It is a requirement for tax deductibility that an amount of money has been transferred from the donor to the recipient in some or the other way and appears in the accounts of both. Usually the next question that is asked now is: ok, I can donate a fee that I actually received back to the organization and receive a donation certificate, what about that? Yes, you can do that, but that is a zero-sum transaction for your business and also tax-wise.

Pro bono work is something you can or even should do, but the only thing that it does for your business is PR (provided you inform the public about it).

(13 Nov '14, 03:26) Julia

Thanks for the update Julia

(13 Nov '14, 04:02) Andy

Your colleague is right, because customers (NGOs) need to know that interpreting is a professional activity; If you want to donate your money to a particular cause, then you can send them a bill and then tell them how much you are donating (1 day, 2 days etc.) I don't think interpreters should work for free, and especially on other colleagues' market, without getting enough information on the market situation. Please also note that AIIC has developed guidelines/checklist for volunteer interpreting/

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answered 21 Jan '12, 17:20

Elisabeth%20K's gravatar image

Elisabeth K

Dear Elisabeth K -- It appears your link for "checklist for volunteer interpreting" is broken. Will you kindly repost this link? Thank you.

(24 Apr '17, 01:20) Meehan
(24 Apr '17, 03:21) Gaspar ♦♦
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question asked: 16 Oct '11, 20:35

question was seen: 6,972 times

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