Designers face a dilemma every now and again. We love the customer, understand their mission, and have a burning desire to help them succeed - but their maximum budget doesn't quite meet our minimum rate. So we start chopping away at the frills, hopefully shortening the monetary gap just enough. It's a squeeze play, no doubt.
There is, however, a route to give your customer the rich theme they deserve without breaking their bank (and yours). Instead of trying to make a bespoke build fit within budget, one option is to create a pliable theme - or collection of pliable themes - that can easily be tweaked to reflect a custom design. These themes contain a basic yet proprietary foundation: defined page layouts, custom fonts, and unique points of engagement. They can also come in various scheme flavors that might closely resemble an organization's style guide.
In that case, couldn't your customer use a stock NationBuilder theme with some modification applied? Of course, but the aesthetic they're going for may require more work in stripping elements and styles away than augmenting what's already there. Not to mention, it's a much more efficient workflow to adjust a theme you've created. It's like walking through a house you've lived in for the past decade versus a friend's place that you've visited once or twice.
You can also take the approach of "categorical design" with your white-label themes, where the format is specifically geared towards certain markets and types of communities. It's the same idea we've adopted with our own public themes (i.e. Headliner for entertainers and Victory Again for political projects). Designing a typical model for a given organization's theme often requires less work to modify compared with a blank slate or irrelevant over-polish.
The last factor will be how you're going to price all of this out. Do you charge an hourly rate for the tweaks, is your white-label solution priced as a package, etc.? Having this structured upfront conveys a sense of professionalism while still making your customer feel like you're personally catering to their budgetary constraints.
Don't let costs prohibit you from working with organizations you care about. Find a way to make it work on the white-label road.