Opportunities to Give with Photography
“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
When our businesses are run well, we have the ability to give of our time and even our money to people and causes that are important to us. If you’ve never gotten involved with a charitable organization, I challenge you to seek out something that speaks to you. There are so many different causes to get involved in, and I promise that you will be blessed through your giving. If you aren’t financially able to give money, give of your time, talent and service.
Over the years, I’ve been involved with many local organizations and even individual families that need help. My studio does many fundraisers throughout the year, and I believe that by giving in these ways, my reputation in my community has been elevated. I’ve had many clients who have come to me over the years just because I had donated, raised money for or served in an organization that was special to them.
In 2009, I visited orphanages in Ecuador with a group of photographers, and after just a few days there, I knew I had to go back. By the end of the trip, photographer Travis Gugelman, his wife, Jennie, and I had decided that we wanted to make things legal, so we started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Thus was Dando Amor (“Giving Love”) born.
Dando Amor now works with orphaned children in Ecuador, Africa and Haiti. In 2013, we started our own orphanage in Ecuador that now houses teenage boys. Boys of this age were immediately in our hearts from the first trip to Ecuador. In traditional orphanages there, boys get “kicked out” as soon as they reach 13 or 14 because it’s felt that smaller children aren’t safe around teenage boys. They have the choice of going back to the streets or to a men’s rehabilitation center. There was really no appropriate place for boys of this age in the areas we visited. Taking on something like this involves many new costs and responsibilities, including forming a legal nonprofit in Ecuador. We’ve faced many challenges, but believe it’s what we are supposed to be doing, and we are seeing lives changed.
I’m reminded of the story of the starfish. A man was walking on a beach and saw a young boy tossing starfish into the ocean. He asked the little boy what he was doing, and the boy told him that the tide had brought in the starfish and that if they didn’t go back into the water, they would die. The man laughed and said, “You can’t make a difference. There are miles of beach and thousands of starfish!” The boy picked up another and, as he threw it back into the water, he smiled and said to the man, “I made a difference for that one!” I love this story. This is something we should practice as often as possible. No, we may not be able to help hundreds, but we can all surely help at least one.
Look for moments of random acts of kindness. Sometimes just a smile or a few minutes of time to really listen can make the difference in someone’s day. One thing I learned from the children in Ecuador was that people love having their photograph taken. On the first trip, just seeing their image on the back of the camera made them smile and want another and another. On the next trip, we took along a small printer and gave the children photos of themselves. These kids giggled and smiled and clung to the photos. For most, it was their first photo of themselves.
I decided to do this at home or when I’m traveling other places as well. To just stop someone on the street and ask them if I can photograph them. People are always taken aback, and a little surprised, but it almost always ends up in a smile and a new friend. We have the ability to create memories with our cameras. Even if you don’t hand that person a print, just showing what you saw in them can change their perspective. I had a man tell me one day that I was the only person who had talked to him that entire day. He said most people pass by and look in the other direction, hoping not to make eye contact. He told me that I made him feel human again. And guess whose day that made? I think we will always both remember that day. When we give, it always comes back around.
Here are some ideas for giving through your business that I promise will reward you both emotionally and financially:
– Donate all fees from an event, session or certain time frame to a charity.
– Be a drop-off location for toys (https://toysfortots.org) or shoes (check out www.shoes4love.com). Give donors a gift card to use during their next session with you.
– Host an open house or girls’ night out, and photograph headshots or new profile photos in exchange for a $25 donation.
– Photograph kids on Halloween night (you can even do this in your front yard, or partner with another business). Offer a 5×7 or even a digital file for a $15 donation to a local charity. Have packages available for further purchase.
There are many ideas that will reward you and your business. If you do choose to travel, take advantage of new situations and opportunities. Look for those little moments. If nothing else, you’ll have a new story to tell or to blog about.