You may have at your fingertips the most powerful software platform for not-for-profits, but that will not help you achieve your goals if you fail to speak, clearly and directly, to your various target audiences.
The key to globalizing your not-for-profit reach is to localize your content and marketing. That starts with translating your website, email, and marketing campaigns to local languages — but it doesn’t stop there. Classy makes it easier than ever to accept donations in more than 100 currencies, but your content needs to take into account other factors such as local metrics, currency, date and number formats as well as regional customs and cultural nuances. How do you get it right at a reasonable price?
We consider options for cost-effective globalization of your fundraising campaigns and translating your fundraising ideas into focused and localized communication products. These options include working with localization agencies, freelancers, and AI-driven machine translation solutions. We’ll cover tips and tricks to prevent your campaign from getting lost in translation, and best practices for going global.
If you have the budget, localization-specialized translation companies are the way to go
With the rise of the internet, the role of a translation company has expanded to include various functions that go beyond translating the content. They also must consider the context, essentially the local “wrapper” around the words. This goes way beyond words but touches upon the software – websites and applications, especially mobile apps, and email marketing and advertising campaigns – that are the stock-in-trade of every marketing communications and online fundraising campaign. There are so many moving parts that only specialized agencies – focusing on translating and localizing content – have arisen to meet this market need.
Make no mistake: you will pay a premium for engaging a company to provide translation services and localization of your software. That premium, roughly, can amount to 50% to 200% of what you would pay for a freelancer translator (an option we will also consider later on). But against this additional cost, you need to weigh both the quality of the outcome and the cost in terms of time (management time and time to market). Let’s consider these factors in additional detail.
When you engage an agency to provide localization, you’re hiring a multifaceted and multilingual team with specific divisions of roles and responsibilities. At first, you will interact with someone on the marketing and sales side of the translation company: their initial task being to provide you with a free, no-obligation quote for the work you describe. Usually, that quote will come back to you in a matter of hours or at most a day or two. There’s a lot of competition out there, so you should solicit offers from multiple translation/localization vendors.
How do you evaluate the offers of a translation company?
For translation, prices are usually quoted as a rate per word in the source document. Rates vary widely between locations and language pairs, so you should be clear about what needs to be translated in which media to create an “apples to apples” comparison for evaluation purposes. You also need to specify which digital projects need to be localized: website, mobile app, email templates, advertising, etc. The more exact you can be, the more able you’ll be to avoid unpleasant surprises down the road. You’ll also want to get a preliminary project plan and timetable.
Before proceeding, let’s clarify what is localization. Translation and localization are overlapping sets. To some extent the translation definition is a substantial subset of the localization definition, dealing with the strictly linguistic dimension of adapting your message from one language to another. But location influences not just language but other factors as well. Australian, British and American for example, are distinct dialects of English. The same with the Portuguese spoken in Lisbon and Rio, or the Spanish of Madrid and Mexico City.
Each locale has its own conventions, currencies, distinctive formats for dates and numbers. In sensitive matters like fundraising and building engagement, these nuances are hugely significant. You need to demonstrate local authenticity. So the tasks of translation and localization go hand in hand, especially as communications are often codified in software and thus require significant technological management.
What does your translation company project team look like?
Once you select a translation company, they will assign you an account executive (AE) who, post-sale, will be your day-to-day liaison and single point of contact. If he or she is proficient, that person will become your go-to person. Don’t expect direct interaction with the hands-on translation team. Often this is a team effort that goes on behind the scenes. The AE will be accountable to you for quality, meeting deadlines, and results. If something goes wrong – and it almost always does, even in the best of agencies – you have every right to hold the AE accountable. The AE knows that and makes every effort to avoid disappointments or, heaven forbid, confrontations.
The steps of the translation process are iterative. Even the best agency will not get everything right the first time. The 80-20 rule of thumb is applicable here. Each iteration of translation should hit 80% accuracy, but with a translation company those iterations are internal, usually with a senior translator checking the work of a junior one. As the client, your received work product should be well up in the 90%+ range. There should be few if any mistakes when a translated work product is presented to you.
The better translation and localization agencies provide a guarantee: to fix any mistake later found in its work, even if the product has been accepted and paid for. The periods of this guarantee vary: from weeks to months, to up to a year. The longer the period, the more confidence you may have in your agency. Bear in mind that you are likely to be dealing with multiple languages and multiple localities, so behind the scenes your AE will be orchestrating a complex concerto, often spanning the globe.
Freelance Translation: An option for budget-constrained not-for-profit?
Considering this complexity, you will grasp the advantages of working in an agency rather than managing all this yourself. Nevertheless, some not-for-profits, with an eye on reducing their costs, may be tempted to manage freelance translators.
The prospect is tempting. Platforms like Upwork, Freelancer.com, and Fiverr display professional translators in virtually every language under the sun, some offering rates that are a fraction of what is offered by the top tier translation and localization agencies. These freelancers display their credentials: profiles, ratings, reviews, portfolios. You can collect their bids, interview them, and negotiate with them.
The downside of working with freelancers is the burden of management overhead. The work of the agency Account Executives will fall on your shoulders, including the management of multiple language teams and distinct translation and localization efforts. If you have the time and aptitude, you can save a lot of money. But you will pay for it in time, and you assume a greater risk in terms of quality. Who checks the chosen freelancer? Who quality assures the localized software?
There is a middle road, and that is to emulate what agencies do: hire translators and localizers in pairs, a senior resource to audit the work of a less-expensive junior resource. Or, if you choose to work with an agency, consider hiring a senior resource to check the work of your chosen agency. Trust but verify.
Machine Translation and Localization Software: When to Use It and How to Avoid its Pitfalls
The state of the art in machine translation has advanced dramatically, as anyone who has used these online services over a period of years can confirm. Google Translate and Microsoft Translator are the leaders in this high-stakes game. AI-driven neural network technology has dramatically improved translation quality over the past 5 years.
So, you may wonder, do you really need human translators at all? As in the world of chess, are we reaching the point where machines are simply better than grandmasters? That day may yet come, but we haven’t come close to reaching it yet. That said, machine translation can be useful for market research, for social media conversations, for tech support, and as a reality checking for auditing the work of human translators or translation companies. (This includes ensuring that your hired agents are not taking the short-cut of using machine translation themselves, an ethical no-no your contract should preclude.)
Software is also invaluable for managing the technical localization function. This is among what you should look for in a localization company. Most localization software is not intended for end-users like not-for-profit organizations but rather for translation and localization companies, who use it to manage and organize your work. But you should ask your human vendors which software they use as a matter of transparency.
Hire Only Translation Companies that Know the Not-for-Profit World
Last but not least: the worlds of not-for-profit and philanthropic fundraising are distinctly different from commercial companies and their marketing projects. Your chosen translation and localization resources should possess a track record demonstrating this focused expertise. Look for specific case studies of not-for-profit localization successes, and query candidates about familiarity with not-for-profit challenges and approaches. To adapt the familiar expression: to go global with your fundraising and engagement campaigns, first think, and act, locally.
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