Donating your time photographing for local non-profit organizations is a great way to gain exposure and build professional relationships in your community. It may seem a little taboo to give your time away to get more business, but it definitely has its advantages.
Non-profits are often low budget, not allowing much room to hire a photographer to cover their events. However, they can definitely benefit from having images of their happenings in order to boost advertisement and also to send to their corporate sponsors to show how they are being advertised through the organization they are supporting monetarily.
Offering your photography services free of charge will not only help the organization, but it gives you experience covering events and gets your name out into the community.
Here are a few easy steps to make the process easier for you…
Make a List of Local Non-Profit Organizations You Support
This can be anything from covering your school district’s field day to an event at a museum. I am local to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and we have a bunch of non-profits here. I began by contacting a friend who works in the art department at The Carnegie Science Center to see if they had a need for photographs. He put me in contact with the director of marketing and just a week later I had booked three events with them. This led to a paid job photographing products for their souvenir store’s website, not to mention my name was given to the three other Carnegie Museums as a referral for event coverage.
Another time, I offered to take pictures for the Pittsburgh Chapter of the March of Dimes. Rather than covering the people who were walking the 5K, the director had me looking for teams who were there representing their biggest sponsors as well as how their banners and advertisements were being displayed for the thousands of walkers to see. It worked well because I got to interact with people who are heads of many Pittsburgh-based companies and even met the photographer for the Pittsburgh Pirates and was offered an internship for next season. Just seeing how people and families from all over come together to support a great cause was enough to make my day, but that definitely made it even better!
If you don’t live in a big city where there are dozens of non-profits to pick from, try your township. Community days, the local library, the police station, the animal shelter, the food pantry, they all put on events that they would like to have pictures of but funds make it impossible to pay for a photographer.
Get in Contact With Someone in the Advertising Department
Randomly sending an email to someone who you have never met can seem intimidating, but not if you know who to contact and what to say. Generally, non-profits have a “contact us” page with details of who to contact depending on your needs. Since you will be donating media, you want to look for someone in charge of media, advertising, or marketing. Pen a quick email telling how you support their cause and would love to help out be covering some of their events pro bono in exchange for being able to use them as a reference on your client list.
It’s even better if you have a specific event in mind that you would like to cover (for instance, I offered to cover the annual walk for the March of Dimes). It may take a while for someone to get back to you, but I have found that even if they don’t have use for photography services, they will let you know.
Some of the Personal Benefits of Donating Your Time
By donating your services, you will not only build a strong reputation in the community, but you get the satisfaction of knowing you are helping a cause that you support. One of the other benefits is that if you own a business that you have to pay taxes for, you get to write off your donation. ALWAYS keep track of your time and the products/services you are giving away – it makes tax time much easier!