Working with a Non-Profit Organization to Promote Your Portrait Studio

In November of 2013 I met a couple of ladies at a women’s networking event for NAPW (National Association of Professional Women) who worked for the American Heart Association. I introduced myself, said I was a glamour portrait photographer and turns out they were looking for a new photographer to photograph the survivors gallery Go Red for Women luncheon & conference. They had chosen five women and one little girl to be photographed and to tell their stories of survival from heart decease, heart attack, and stroke. I contacted each survivor individually talked them through the process of the portrait session and gave them a list of available dates so we could coordinate a day to have their portrait session. I treated each survivor to their own glamour portrait session and hired a makeup artist. I set a aside a small budget to pay for the MUA to do hair and makeup for 5 ladies and for my marketing for the event. Over the course of 2 months I photographed all 6 survivors and the Go Red committee chose one image of each to be displayed in the gallery. I had never worked with a non-profit before so I had to “learn as I go”. During the past three years working with the AHA & Go Red for Women I’ve come up with some great tips to help you get started with the process of working with a non-profit organization to help promote your portrait studio.

Initial Contact and Consultation

The first 2 years that I photographed the survivors gallery, I talked with them about what to wear and how to prepare for their portrait session so they each came with 1 or 2 red dresses or outfits to be photographed in. This year I provided the wardrobe and accessories for those who needed or wanted this option. After I received their names and contact information from AHA and sent a welcome email to each survivor.

I described to them the following:

  • What to expect and the process of the portrait session.
  • How to prepare for the session that included a check list of suggested tips, i.e. getting a manicure, touch up their hair, etc.
  • How to arrive to the portrait session. Clean hair and face, comfortable cloths to wear during their makeover session.
  • Directions to my studio and the time they need to arrive.
  • A list of available dates to choose from.

They all have different schedules than me so I asked them to each call me at their convenience and I took them through the same consultation I give all my clients while reiterating what I wrote in the initial email. When the portrait sessions are finished be sure to leave yourself and the organization approximately 2-3 weeks of time to get marketing materials ready and printed for the event. So do your editing to the images you or the organization choose, quickly and efficiently.

Planning the Photoshoots

With Go Red each survivor is asked to wear red for their portrait. When you work with the non-profit find out if they have a ribbon color–you may need to design a portrait session around their color theme. I also take this into consideration when I am choosing the background set ups each year; take the opportunity to think outside-the-box. If you have been wanting to try a creative styled shoot or maybe you want get experimental–this is that time to do it! Talk to the organization about your ideas or better yet present them with a visual of your ideas. That’s what I did this year. One of the first survivors I photographed was turning 21 and she booked a portrait session to celebrate in her favorite color red. So, I asked her if she would like to get a little creative with the shoot and described my idea to her and those are the images I presented Go Red to essentially “sell them” on the theme. I watched Sue’s bed of flowers tutorial used lots of faux red roses, a rusty brown upholstery fabric as a backdrop for the standing & sitting poses, with a texture overlay I added in post. I also made a red tulle dress for one of the portrait sessions that I also learned to make by watching Sue’s styling tutorials.

Talk to the Organization About How They Plan to Use the Portraits

The survivors gallery is a collection of printed roll up banners designed to include each survivor’s portrait and heart story which travels around Bakersfield and Kern County at selected locations throughout the year. This banner is a vertical orientation so I picked 6 vertical poses to photograph each survivor in. Find out what the organization you are working with is planning to use the images for so you can create a story board and shoot list and select the poses that best fits their needs. I created a shoot list to keep track and follow along with during each session. I also make sure to take a few horizontal shots to use for my marketing as well. This year I added moving portraits to my shoot list for a behind the scenes video. Due to schedules it took a few weeks to get all the survivors photographed and at the end of all the sessions I chose 5 portraits of each survivor to present to the Go Red committee. You don’t want to overdo it and make their decisions too difficult so narrow your image selections down to the best image from each pose of each selectee. I also coordinate my marketing with the date of the Go Red event. So I do not share any of the portraits of the survivors on my social media, my website, or my print marketing until the day of because they have a special unveiling of the gallery at the start of the event.

Calculating Your Value for Sponsorship

The Go Red committee asked me to calculate the value of the service I was providing so they could determine the amount I was contributing as a sponsor. From the five images of each survivor that I present to the Go Red committee they choose one portrait of each. I calculate this as the price of an 18×24” wall portrait which is the size of the digital files I send to the organization for their use. This monetary value is translated into a sponsorship level which for me was a booth at the event, adding an item into the gift bags for 460 attendees, and a half-page advertisement in the event program. My logo is also placed on the survivors banners in the gallery. I also request that if any of the survivor portraits are sent to the local news media or used on any of their marketing that my photo credit appear on or next to the images.

If you are working with an MUA (Makeup Artist / Hair Stylist) ask them if they too would be interested in donating their services. Talk to the representative of the organization you are working with to work out a similar sponsorship for the MUA and calculate their rate for their services and if they stay and assist you during the portrait session add in that time you would be compensating them for that too. This is something I worked out the 2nd year I photographed the gallery.

Marketing for a Non-Profit Event

That first year my marketing was limited to my very small budget so I had to make every dollar stretch. I printed what I was able to on my home printer and sent what I could afford to a professional printer like my gift vouchers and wall portraits for display at my booth. I learned to save for this budget by setting aside a little money over the course of the year to put towards my marketing at events. I can reuse just about all of this for any networking event I go to as well. So any new marketing I create is well worth the investment. With the exception of my gift vouchers because I customize those per event and print in high volume or low volume depending on my needs.

When it came time to prepare for this years event–I put a lot more thought and planning into my booth and my marketing. I decided that this year I would film some behind the scenes video and take some still images. I enlisted the help of my two daughters. Koren who took the behind the scenes still pictures for the magazine and also helped me with styling hair and Samantha recorded some behind the scenes video and assisted with the shoots.

For the marketing this year I designed before and after booklets, printed 100 business cards with a variety of client portraits on the back. I printed and matted the survivors portraits to put into a folio box display. Brought in 5 framed portraits to display choosing portraits that represented a range of age groups from children to 50+. I printed gift vouchers for all 460 attendees to be placed in the goody bags. And new this year I designed and printed a special edition of my studio magazine featuring the Go Red survivor portraits. I also brought in a computer monitor to show the behind the scenes video on a loop that played through the entire event. By request, my booth this year was located right near the main entrance so I was able to see every attendee enter and used it to my advantage and talked to as many people as I could. Anyone I spoke to who was interested in a portrait session received my magazine to take home with them. I picked it up and used to to show what I do, referred to my pricing and products how to contact me to book a session.

Collect contact information from everyone you meet!

One of the best ways to do this is by creating an incentive so they will be tripping over themselves to give it to you. Have some sort of a collection box at your booth with a sign for a special offer, giveaway, or prize. You can usually find these at OfficeDepot. Encourage them to drop in their business card or fill out a small sheet of paper with their name, email, mailing address, phone number, etc. You can make those on your computer 4 up on a 8.5×11” sheet then print and cut them out. Have those stacked next to the box with a couple of pens. It does’t have to be fancy just keep it simple and easy. Input those contacts into a Excel spread sheet or by some other means so you can use it later. I separate them into groups to keep track of which event I collected them from. Within a week or two after the event follow up with an email or “snail mail” them a card thanking each of them for visiting your booth with a $100 gift voucher to use for a portrait session with you.

Do I Sell the Portraits to the Survivors I Photograph?

Yes I do. The first year I felt a little guilty about charging them for their portraits. Because these women did not come to me to book a portrait session, they were asked by the organization to be in the gallery and share their heart story. This is essentially a shoot for charity so the portrait sessions are complimentary and the portraits are donated to the organization. The survivors are not obligated to pay for anything so I was actually not expecting them to want to buy their portraits that first year. Now I schedule print reveals for those survivors that request it and I offer a 25% discount to them. So here’s where you could work it out that same way as the gift vouchers. Offer the selectees a complimentary makeover portrait session with a $100 voucher to use towards the purchase of prints. Indicate that there is no obligation to purchase and they can request a reveal to see the rest of their portraits at a private reveal session if they are interested. I’ve made it a tradition to gift all the survivors with one 7×10 matted print of the image chosen for the gallery. The print is presented to the survivors during the unveiling ceremony. I did this to entice them to request a reveal to see the rest of the images from their session and it works every time.

Having a Personal Connection to a Cause

Working with a non-profit organization like the American Heart Association and Go Red for Women has been such a rewarding experience. It fuels my enthusiasm, my creativity, and ability to share and talk about what I do. I’ve listened to some amazing stories from these survivors and have made many life-long friends. What makes it more special is that I have a personal connection to this cause. Both my parents were affect by heart disease. For me, I feel like I am giving back to the doctors who saved my mother with an experimental surgery and helping others to survive a heart attack that my father could not. I think having that personal connection helps me to better tell the survivors stories through portrait to show their courage, their beauty, and their heart.

Marketing Products Used:

Before & After Books: 6×6” flush mount albums from

Gift Vouchers: For high volume printing of print runs of 100 pieces or more I use 5×7” horizontal postcard, double-sided, paper stock in 16pt dull cover with matte finish OR 14pt gloss coated cover (C2S) with high gloss UV.
For Low Volume Printing: you can print as low as 20-5×7”, double-sided flat cards.

I also used my Classic Style Gift Voucher Template for the design layout×7-gift-voucher-template?ref=shop_home_feat_2

Business Cards: Original, Double Sided from Moo

Magazine Template: I used my Contemporary Portraiture Template and printed 50 at for this event.

Collection Box: Clear Acrylic Ballot/Coin Box from Office Depot to collect business cards or place info sheet into.

Templates for Collection Box Sign & Info Cards:×6-collection-box-sign-and-info-cards?ref=shop_home_active_1

Frames & Matts: Aaron Brothers Art & Framing. I buy the Verona series in silver & black.


Folio Box & Matts: Black River Imaging 11″ x 14″ Folio Collection Image Box, 3.5” black faux leather with white lining & REDI-PAK White Core 11×14 (6.5×9.5) – Smooth White

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for sharing your lessons learned and for all the details. From your example it seems like that you were able to make the whole process a win/win and serve a great non profit.