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Working with Nonprofit Organizations to Promote Yourself


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Thank you to Shuva Rahim, our guest blogger today, who is the owner of Accent Photographics. Shuva focuses on lifestyle images of children, families and weddings in Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. She has worked with the March of Dimes, American Heart Association, and is currently doing a photo charity in partnership with the Children’s Therapy Center of the Quad Cities in which a portion of each session from now through March will go to the nonprofit.

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Working with Nonprofits to Promote Yourself

Being a photography business means getting your name out there and connecting with people and groups that will notice you – specifically charitable organizations.

When I started my business in 2008 I started a working relationship with a local children’s therapy center. I didn’t know it then, but my connection with its director would result in free exposure at events and clients (families and weddings) I would not otherwise receive.

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However, not all charitable organizations are equal. And don’t assume a national nonprofit is necessarily “better” than a purely local one (or vice versa). So here are some tips on finding and working with one.

  1. Do Your Research. If you Google “nonprofit” and your community you will get thousands of hits. Some are start-up, single-person charities and may want and expect everything for free. Others have boards of directors, are established in the community for many years, and work with an annual operating budget. It’s important to find a nonprofit that falls into the latter category because, as an artist, you are more likely to be properly recognized for your work and not taken advantage of.
  2. Ask Questions. How long has the nonprofit been in the community? How many people do they serve? And more importantly, are they fiscally responsible? The nonprofit’s website should have all this information. If not, ask for an annual report.
  3. Find a Cause You Care About. It is easy to support the American Heart Association because a relative died of heart disease or the March of Dimes because a friend had a baby born premature. But if you can’t relate to an organization’s mission take the time to educate yourself on exactly what it does and how its dollars are put to use.
  4. Photograph Events. Offer to shoot an event in exchange for a large ad in the program and/or being prominently named as a sponsor. In the process do your part to promote yourself by taking photos, talking to people and handing out business cards.
  5. Be a Business, Not a Charity. Taking money from a charity sounds bad. But a nonprofit is in the business of raising money for its cause. Agree on compensation if the nonprofit wants you take photos for an event or project it will prominently display or sell as a tangible product, such as a poster or calendar.
  6. Get Your Work Seen. Photograph people the nonprofit serves with large photo displays the organization will use everywhere. Prior to an event held by the therapy center, I photographed some of the children and turned those photos in large canvas prints. The therapy center displays those prints at nearly every major event they attend or host. It’s great exposure for the nonprofit and for you.
  7. Photo Charity. Do a photo charity campaign by donating a portion of the session fee to the nonprofit. In doing so, make sure there is adequate communication in meetings and in writing so the nonprofit it aware of what you’re doing, is excited about it and promotes the project on their end as well.
  8. Volunteer. Outside of shooting, take time to volunteer for fundraisers held by the nonprofit, such as collecting cans for a can drive or serving on a silent auction committee. As a result you meet some great people, get your name out there and develop a closer relationship with a cause you care about.
  9. Make contact regularly. This depends on the leadership and how accessible they are. But give the director a call or visit often to find out what’s going on. Many of these casual conversations result in exposure to other staff members, as well as ideas that will benefit both parties.
  10. Treat Them Like Your Best Client. Lastly, your success depends on how excited you are about contributing to the nonprofit as much as it is excited about you contributing. Getting repeat donors depends partly on the how well and often the nonprofit recognizes all its in-kind and monetary contributors.But the same is true for you – the photographer. Contribute in a variety of ways on a consistent basis if you want results. Always say “thank you.” Shoot. Volunteer. Stop in and chat about family, sports, life in general. Mail a holiday card. And more importantly, send money.

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No Comments

  1. Samantha Bender on December 3, 2009 at 11:37 am

    Hey Shuva! Nice work! Congrats on the guest blogging! Sam

  2. Diane on December 3, 2009 at 2:27 pm

    an excellent post with sage advice — thank you.

  3. Carey Sadler on December 3, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Great information! Good advice for any small business looking to connect with a non-profit.

  4. Jamie {Phatchik} on December 3, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    I work for a large non-profit and I volunteer to shoot for us all the time, but unfortunatly (because I work here) I can’t really promote my biz. I will say, however, that when my co-workers see the fruits of my labor and are impressed, they want to know more and a few have hired me to shoot their families. It’s always a good idea to volunteer to shoot, especially when you’re just starting out.

  5. susan on December 4, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I love this post! I donate a lot of my photography to our local High School Marching band. It helps that my own children (teens!) are in the band, but when it comes to my market, high school seniors, it helps that I’m the official photographer of the group. My niche into the school and with the band has cemented me with senior sessions for the next 5 years, thanks due to a lot of photography within the band. Thanks for such a great post! 🙂

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