Translations for Non-Profits: How to Manage the Cost of Reaching Out to Non-English Speakers

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Non-profits that are seeing an increased demand for their services from non-English speakers know that juggling the community's needs and a tight budget is challenging. One thing is clear: English-only is usually not an option if they want to meet their missions. There are ways organizations can manage translation costs so that they can communicate with clients in their native languages.

1. Ask if the translations company has a non-profit rate. When P & L Translations ( work with a non-profit in their community for the first time, the first 250 words of a translation into Spanish are free.

2. Plan ahead. Include translations as a line item in the next grant you write so that you have the funds available when you need a document translated.

3. Call a board member. Don't sacrifice your mission because you don't have money in the budget for translations. Most board members will be happy to write a check.

4. Be direct - Make sure the original text is clearly written so that the translation will also be true to your message.

5. Edit, edit, edit - The number of words or characters may increase by 20%-60% when they are translated into other languages from English. This expansion affects the layout of presentations, marketing materials, and your website. Can you make the text shorter?

6. Make sure that the document you submit for translation is the final version. If you make changes to the original after you have submitted it, you will be paying for extra, unnecessary work.

7. Check the grammar and spelling before you submit documents for translation. If the document says "weed" where you meant to write "seed", the same mistake will probably be in the translation.

8. Be specific. The information you provide will streamline the process. Useful information includes where the translation will be used, who the audience is (parents enrolling their children in school, victims of domestic abuse, employees, etc.), and if there are graphics or tables.

9. Translation pricing is based on the number of words in the original document. That's the industry standard, and that's why tips #4 and #5 are included in this list.

10. Compile all the documents you want translated. We need to see them to get an accurate count of how many words need to be translated, if special formatting is needed, and to gauge how technical (or simple) the text is.

11. Send only what needs to be translated. If the notes on a PowerPoint presentation are for internal use only, remove them from the file.

12. Ask questions. Your translations provider is there to help. Just ask.

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Occupation: Partner, Translations Company
For more tips to save time and money on your next translation project, visit Request your FREE copy of "14 Things You Can Do to Stay on Budget".

By Janine Libbey, Partner, P & L Translations, Nashville, Tennessee

Janine Libbey developed her expertise in international marketing, multilingual communications and advertising working on some of the world's best known consumer brands. She has worked for a publishing company in Barcelona, a record label in Madrid, and ad agencies in Spain, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Hispanic market.

P & L Translations is certified as a Women Business

P & L Translations is certified as a Women Business Enterprise (WBE) in Tennessee by the Governor's Office of Diversity Business Enterprise.

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