Building a Brand That Gives Back with Sweet Nectar Society
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Most of us don’t begin our photography journey with the idea that we might use our talents for a better purpose. Our ability to make time stand still, to tell a story without words, to capture an idea that might not be so clear to the average eye, draws us here. It inspires us and challenges us to do more. If the idea has crossed your mind that you might be able to provide a service that goes beyond taking photos, keep reading to learn what goes into building a brand that gives back.
Sweet Nectar Society was started by two photographers with heart. Our focus was on medically fragile children, and the goal was to provide as many free sessions to families as we could. What did we want the brand to convey? Hope, courage and strength—a simple concept with an incredibly meaningful mission.
We have spent countless hours working on our brand—everything from identifying our purpose, to networking and building relationships, to becoming a recognizable symbol in our community. Before our organization took flight, we had to establish every detail, including behind-the-scenes administrative aspects of running a charity and then photo style, color scheme and everything in between. We were laser-focused on the concept of giving through the art of photography.
Whether you want to give by creating your own nonprofit or by aligning your business with an existing cause, we’d like to share with you some insights based on our experiences.
Cause: Identify Why You Want to Build a Brand That Gives Back
There’s no shortage of causes. If you feel passionately about a cause, then you are qualified to give. Whether it is by donating your time, offering your talent or contributing monetarily, you can make a difference. It’s as easy as that. A little heart goes a long way.
Pablo Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” We found our gift in photography. It is a fulfilling experience to capture our clients’ stories and then give them something tangible that will help them remember moments in time.
We cared about medically fragile children, and wanted to tell their stories, which often go unheard. We find it inspiring and rewarding. Families often tell us that the photographs we took of their child are the only photos they have, and sometimes they are the last images they will ever have of their loved ones. Stories like these fuel our fire and motivate our team to share their gifts with Sweet Nectar.
Commitment: Understand Your Intentions
It takes a lot of heart and time to maintain a nonprofit organization and stay committed to a cause. We encourage anyone considering a partnership with a charity to make sure you are emotionally invested in the cause first. It is easy to lose focus and fizzle out over time if you do not believe in the purpose or do not feel a connection, or if it does not align with your brand.
From a charity’s operational standpoint, the commitment of others is vital to maintaining a productive workflow. Unfortunately, staying committed is hard. Life gets busy and duties get put on the backburner. If you have invested your time, energy and resources in something you believe in, you will be dedicated long term.
There is no time like the present. If your heart is pulling you to give, do it. There will never be a better time than now to volunteer, donate or start up your vision of giving. Regardless of the time or dollar amount you are able to give, it is important to remember that every minute is impactful, every dollar counts, every commitment makes a difference. Start small, and watch your vision go from there. Start giving and see where that opportunity leads you. You won’t know exactly how you will feel until you get out there and start connecting, so take a step and see where the journey takes you.
Another major factor to consider is your motivation. If you are expecting something in return, then you probably do not have charity’s best interest in mind. This is not the right cause for you. You should be thinking about what you can provide for others, not the other way around. Nelson Mandela said it best: “There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return.”
We encourage you to give with the intention of making a difference rather than expecting to be rewarded. At Sweet Nectar Society, we are rewarded in abundance with the pure love and thankfulness from our Sweeties and their families. The gifts they have given us go far beyond fame, monetary rewards or validation. With an honest, giving heart, you will receive so much more than you can ever give, we promise you that.
Connection: Invest in Relationships That Matter
If you are in the market to start giving your services to a group, start networking and making meaningful connections. Building relationships that last is imperative to any business. These relationships give you a better understanding of the people you serve, the community you reach and the obstacles you run into.
Once we started giving our Sweeties photo sessions and learning of their journeys, we immersed ourselves in their communities. We nurtured our connections with their loved ones, built working relationships with their doctors, nurses and teachers, then partnered with other charities that dedicate their time to our Sweeties. We were not forming these bonds because we had to, but because we generally care about our kids and their wellbeing.
By building these relationships, we are able to better serve and reach more families, and build a strong brand with a firm foundation based on giving.
If you want to contribute to an existing charity, do your homework. Make sure the organization’s values and direction line up with your business model, and that it is something you strongly believe in. As a small nonprofit, we rely on donations from our community and our colleagues, and appreciate any form of support. When we were just starting out and had zero funds, we reached out to Bay Photo Lab and Pixieset about our mission. It encouraged us when they supported us with products and services. Years later, we are still filled with gratitude by their ongoing generosity. Every chance we get to highlight their businesses or direct clients to them, we do so, even though they do not expect anything in return.
If you don’t know where to start, begin by sharing your ideas. Ask for feedback and suggestions. Talk to people you respect and trust. You’d be surprised how one small idea can spring into action. The world has a way of opening doors like that. A few spontaneous sessions turned into a hundred, which a little over five years later has turned into almost 600—all because of a conversation with a like-minded photographer about an idea to give back.
Consistency: Build a Strong Following
We don’t just photograph our clients. We invite them to be a part of our movement. Giving these kids the “Sweetie” moniker makes them part of a club of brave children who defy odds, never give up and inspire others. We want them to feel like they are part of a bigger purpose. Everyone who knows this child and has seen their journey feels the same way, and shares the same sense of pride. We follow up with them on social media, invite them to our events and show our appreciation for letting us be a small part of their story. We truly care, and put our all into showing our audience what makes these kids so great.
Creating a strong, recognizable brand will set up your organization for success. We pay close attention to ensure every photo, post and product we attach our logo to has the same high quality and style. The care and consideration we pay to these details gives our supporters a feeling of security knowing our Sweeties are receiving the very best. When our followers log on to their social media accounts and notice our little hummingbird logo, they immediately know what to expect: a beautiful image of a strong and brave Sweetie. Donors know these kids will receive galleries of images and a special book made possible by their support.
This endeavor includes brand recognition. We want our name well known in our community, and use every available resource to achieve that. We show up at events that relate to our charity, volunteer our talents to like-minded organizations, get our story told on the radio, on television and in newspapers. We leave our fliers every place that might interact with one of our kids. Doctor’s offices have photos of the children we photograph hanging on their walls, which we provide free. Even though we are not for profit, we still need to invest in marketing our brand to the right audience, not only to help with sponsorships, but to foster the belief in what we are doing and find people who are willing to come along for the ride. We want our name and brand to be well known and spoken often.
Finding the drive and ability to give back doesn’t happen overnight. Having a clear plan will help carry your idea into action. Thoroughly think things out and make a plan for both your giving and your time. Go into it with as much information and support as you can get. Study how successful charities do what they do. Connect with others who share the same desire to give. Talk with people who are in in need. Gather your experiences and go forth with positivity.
The world needs people who are willing to put it all on the line to make just one person’s day better. We can all help. We can all change lives if we only look within ourselves and find the strength, hope and courage to try.