FreeSpeakers.org is a pro bono speaker’s bureau for Chicago and the surrounding suburbs. All speakers give free presentations. This means there is no charge, no honorarium, no mileage costs. This service is 100% FREE to groups needing speakers. FreeSpeakers.org is a community service project of Ginny Richardson Public Relations.
From Ginny Richardson’s work at The Doings Newspapers and later in public relations, she accumulated a broad network of people including program chairmen from clubs and organizations. These folks would call and ask if she knew anyone who gave talks for one of their upcoming meetings. She had always recommended friends and/or clients who are entertaining speakers. These speakers want to teach others, tell of a personal mission or be better known in the community.
This very casual list of speakers grew. Ginny had been toying with some way to organize the free speakers bureau, but her public relations company, Ginny Richardson Public Relations, was so busy she never got around to it.
Finally, in the spring of 1996, she named it Free Speech and formalized the list. GR-PR employees worked on the Free Speech project and sent many a mailer to clubs, libraries, chambers of commerce, rotaries, churches, etc. Requests started to multiply.
Mary Peterson Kauffold, a writer from the Chicago Tribune, heard about the free speakers bureau and wrote a very brief four paragraph story that appeared in late July 1996 in the DuPage section. It was titled, “Cheap talk for area groups,” and oh, the power of the press. The phone calls were nonstop.
So many people were (and are) interested in becoming speakers in the bureau, very high level people, all with experience and willingness to give a talk, unconcerned about the size of the audience or the donated time.
After years of running the bureau out-of-pocket, Ginny decided to assess speakers a one-time membership fee of $35 to join, just to cover the administrative costs. There is still no charge from GR-PR, FreeSpeakers.org, to the club or group, nor can the speaker charge the group, not even mileage.
In 2002, Andy Richardson, vice president at GR-PR, took over the day-to-day operations of Free Speech. His first task was to get the bureau online.
And he had an even bigger dream – to create an interactive, sophisticated website for a new bureau while, at the same time, keeping intact all the groups and speakers. The name changed to FreeSpeakers.org. Finally, FreeSpeakers.org was launched on Nov. 12, 2015.
It is a labor of love for everyone involved. We are extremely proud of the speakers and the wide variety of topics offered. Today, two decades later, we offer more than 200 free topics. And it keeps growing.