ProZ.com, the world’s biggest translation network and networking marketplace, is mobilizing volunteers to offer free (or “pro bono”) translation and interpreting services to nonprofits across the globe in a wide range of sectors. Just a few months old, this new project is already hitting some key milestones. Let’s take a look at the rationale, the origins and the progress to date.
Why Pro Bono?
All over the world, charities and nonprofits are doing vital work in the fields of health, the environment, education, child welfare, poverty, social issues, and animal welfare, to name but a few. Though these efforts often provide vital support to the disadvantaged, their work is often unsung, and underfunded. With cost-of-living crises rampaging across the globe and inflation spiraling, donations to charities and nonprofits are down. But their initiatives have never been more necessary, and the work must continue.
For many nonprofits, translation and interpreting costs represent a chunk of their budget, and ProZ.com is of the belief that this sorely needed money could often be better spent on frontline work. This thinking led to the launch of the new Pro Bono Project in September 2022.
Building on the past
This is not the ProZ.com community’s first experience in delivering voluntary translations. Working in support of the nonprofit Translators Without Borders, beginning in 2010, ProZ.com translators delivered pro bono work amounting to over 50 million words.
But this latest iteration of the project marks some key departures. For a start, no money exchanges hands, either between ProZ.com and its client organizations, or between the platform and its volunteers. This is a 100% cash-free initiative.
Another innovative feature of the project is its developmental side. Translators are encouraged to work in teams, forming close links with other professionals, whether translating collaboratively or taking on roles ranging from reviewer to project manager. This process also ensures that we deliver quality translations to each client. Interpreters too are invited to work together on joint projects.
Volunteers, clients, and projects
Mobilizing volunteers has not been a problem. In translation and interpreting, as in many other professions, there are practitioners, both new and experienced, who are keen to lend a helping hand to good causes, either because they want to build up their experience and portfolios, or simply because they are motivated to give back, and share some of their expertise voluntarily. So far, the initiative has attracted hundreds of translators and interpreters willing to share their time, from all around the world, offering languages such as Indonesian, Vietnamese, Yoruba, Swahili, Chinese, and Hungarian, in addition to all the mainstream European languages.
A bigger challenge has been reaching out to clients, raising awareness of the benefits of translation, and persuading them that this is indeed a free service, with no catch! Through a combination of personal connections, word-of-mouth, and raising awareness through social media, the project has been able to serve some excellent causes.
Some of the key tasks undertaken so far have included the subtitling of a major environmental film into several languages, the translation of documentation for a health project in Pittsburgh serving some of the most disadvantaged people in US society, work on a series of mentoring guides around the promotion of indigenous languages, and last, but certainly not least, vital support in translation and interpreting for the international charity GiveDirectly which is doing sterling work around the world in tackling poverty at an individual level. In total the project has already racked up way over 300,000 words.
Experienced translator, LSP manager and ProZ.com team member Andrew Morris is coordinating the initiative, matching clients to translators and interpreters and ensuring the whole process moves smoothly ahead. And it seems the clients are pleased! Here’s Heidi Hirvonen from GiveDirectly:
“ProZ.com’s pro bono translation service has helped GiveDirectly build a more inclusive and equitable employee experience by ensuring internal materials are translated accurately and quickly. The quality of Proz.com’s work has been exceptional across every medium – documents, slide decks, survey forms, and videos. And the ProZ.com team is fast! They’ve consistently turned around requests in a matter of days. Moreover, communication and coordination with the team has been easy and seamless. Thank you so much, ProZ.com!”
What you can do
If you represent or know of a charity who could benefit from this 100% free service, don’t hesitate to visit https://go.proz.com/probono or get directly in contact with firstname.lastname@example.org