Non-profit organisations have many points of service delivery during which they might interact with people from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Many non-profits help minority communities, such as literacy groups or immigration organisations. If a non-profit grows large enough, it might even have international operations. As such, below is the ultimate guide to working with translation services for non-profit organisations.

Why It’s Essential to Check Translations for Accuracy 

What is a translation service? Translation services take text in one language and convert it into another language. It sounds simple enough, to the point where an app could do it these days, right? Well, not quite. 

Unlike machines, human translators have an eye for things like tone, cultural background, industry terminology and the larger context of the document. Machine translation can often handle more casual interactions, but human translation services are still necessary for professional operations. 

Some of the complex documents and messages translation services can handle, as they relate to non-profits, include:

  • Ads, PR messages, public service announcements and outreach campaigns 
  • Financial documents, such as annual reports
  • Social media messages 
  • Internal communications (usually if the non-profit is global), such as letters, technical documentation and emails
  • Presentations 
  • Legal documents

All of these documents are too important to get lost in translation! For instance, a bungled legal document could mean voided contracts or failing to meet local regulations. An embarrassing snafu on a PR message could end up offending a certain demographic. A mistranslated technical document could result in someone following an incorrect procedure. These examples alone show why it’s important to check translations for accuracy and to ensure high quality translation services for nonprofits.    

How Much Do Translation Services Cost?

How much does it cost to translate a document? Costs can vary over different translation services, depending on the languages required and a range of other factors. As such, it’s important to shop around. Some factors that can affect cost include:

  • The level of speciality and training required: legal translation can require a background in legal terminology, for instance. 
  • The size of the agency: larger agencies often have to provide salaries for more support staff and other operational costs.  
  • The length and complexity of the project: longer and more detailed projects may affect rates. 

Some freelancers charge by the hour; some charge by the word. Bear in mind that if a service is absolutely dirt cheap, you are likely sacrificing translation quality! A quality professional will charge enough to make a decent living. Translation is one area of work where you will definitely get what you pay for. 

How Do Translation Services Work?  

Quality translation services are much more than a line-by-line conversion of the copy from one language to another. A good translation service will have multiple levels of review worked into the process to make sure what you’re getting back is of the highest standard. A translation process may have the following steps:

  • The first step is often communication between the translator or agency and the client. The client may point out terminology, tone or core messages that must stay intact in the translation.
  • Next, the text is carefully translated by the language professional.
  • An editor or proofreader who speaks the target language natively should check the document at this point to make sure all relevant terminology stayed the same, as well as to review tone and other key parts of the message. They will check the new document against the original.
  • Another round of edits should make sure the layout of the translated document looks good and that it doesn’t have any garbled text or typos. It’s important to check for overall readability at this stage as well. 
  • Finally, the translated document goes back to the client.

This is how a sample process may look. If you work with a freelance translator individually, they may handle these stages of review by themselves. Or how the document gets formatted could work slightly differently. Some translators make use of software to export and re-import text and most use computer-assisted translation tools such as translation memories. The important point is that there should be multiple stages of review to ensure you are getting the best translation possible.

You might also want to double check the translation quality at your end once you get the document back. Find someone who is a native speaker of the language you are translating the message into and ask them to review the document. If you have an employee or volunteer within your organisation who can do this, all the better. That person can make sure the document reads well in the new language and that it best represents the goals of the non-profit. 

How to Find the Best Non-profit Translation Services

A common way to find translation services is to ask around a professional network. People in the non-profit sector may well have favoured translation services that they are happy to recommend. Because these recommended services are already known in the non-profit sector, you can be confident that you’re getting a translator who knows the nonprofit world.

You might also search online for “non-profit translation services” or variants of that term. You can use the results to compile a list of potential services and compare pricing, reviews, timescales, customer support and so forth. 

Once you have your prospective translators or agencies in mind, make sure they:

  • Have an updated and professional-looking website.
  • Are detailed and timely in their communication. For instance, ask what their translation process is like to see how they assure quality. Does their response fill you with confidence?
  • Have a professional background, such as courses/degrees from an accredited university program, translation volunteer work or internships on their resume. Look out for translation certifications or memberships of professional organisations as well. 
  • Demonstrate a track record of translating the types of documents you need, which you can check through portfolios, testimonials or references. 

You can more easily ensure a good working experience with your chosen translator or agency if you take the time to make sure they have a professional background, are easy to communicate with and adhere to deadlines. Investing time upfront can bring peace of mind in the long-run.