All Photos Courtesy of Terran Bayer
A big part of my life’s work is to put some good back into the world. Being an animal photographer and animal-adoption advocate, I naturally gravitate toward wanting to help shelters and rescues. On the most basic level, you can volunteer at the shelter or foster for the rescue but as business owners, we have a really unique opportunity to do even more good! Here are a few really simple ways YOU can make a difference!
1.Take Adoption Photos
With so many homeless animals looking for their forever homes, a professional portrait can make the difference between getting noticed or being overlooked. Find an organization — big or small — whose mission statement closely matches your own values and ask to meet with them to see if you’d be a good fit. The amount of time you want to volunteer should be completely up to you. Maybe you want to take adoption photos every weekend, once a month, or as-needed; find what works best for you.
I have worked with a few rescues over the course of my career. I started with Aztec Doberman Rescue and would take photos of their adoptable animals every few weeks for about two hours. A few years later, I met Lionel’s Legacy Senior Dog Rescue and started working with them, too. With Lionel’s, we work together to pick a single date and location two to three times per year and the founder will invite all of the foster families to come out for portraits. The largest group was 18 dogs in two hours!
One of my favorite parts of taking adoption photos is hearing the stories of adopters who saw the photo, fell in love, and just knew they had to come meet the animal.
If this is something of interest but you don’t quite know how to get started, check out my other recent article, 10 Tips for New Shelter Animal Photographers.
2. Mini Sessions
I love putting together Mini Session fundraisers for rescue organizations and shelters! I happen to do my 15-minute minis in a studio setting but you can do them outdoors, too. I have a low session fee, include a 5×7 print, and give half of the session fee profit to the rescue. We can typically raise $600 or more with a single Mini Session event. I put together some irresistible package options and have even experimented with giving a portion of my sales to the rescue.
The best thing about teaming up with a rescue or shelter is that they do half the marketing! I design all the marketing materials because I want to maintain control of the messaging and images being used. I provide an HTML email that’s ready to be sent to their mailing list, graphics to be used on a calendar event page on social media, and a PDF that can be printed as a flyer and put up at any partnering businesses. The more buzz you can create, the better! You may even be able to get local news coverage if you send out a press release to the right source!
Another bonus with Mini Sessions is that you’re helping your business, too. You’re gaining contacts and earning an income so you can continue to volunteer and be generous with your favorite rescues and shelters.
3. Make a Donation
Donations come in many different forms! Your donation may be as simple as giving a portion of every sale to the shelter or rescue. Or maybe if a client brings in a bag of food (talk to the organization you’ll be donating to first to see what specific brand they feed), they’ll get a service or product for free or at a special discount.
Auctions are also a fantastic way to give back. I’ve donated full sessions, mini sessions, and framed artwork to silent and live auctions for organizations I love. Over the years, these donations have raised thousands of dollars for my favorite charities!
Or how about a calendar? I have created calendars for multiple rescues in conjunction with Mini Session events (as part of the session fee, clients are guaranteed a spot in the calendar). One of my favorite calendar fundraisers, though, was when Lionel’s Legacy and I teamed up to create a calendar with adoption photos I had already taken of their dogs. They offered sponsorship’s for $250, which allowed the sponsor to pick a Lionel’s Legacy senior — whom I had already photographed — and the month on which that senior would appear, plus the sponsor would have his or her name or company’s name on that month’s spread. I designed the calendar (I’m a graphic designer, too), we found a printer who produced a beautiful product for us at a very low cost, and Lionel’s Legacy was able to sell it to their supporters for a good profit, which went right back to their animals.
There’s no right or wrong way to give back to shelter and rescue pets but the important thing is to find an organization that you want to support and one that respects your time and willingness to share your craft with them. By all means, set boundaries with how much you’re able to give back but be as generous as you can be. Remember that we’re all in this together, trying to help these wonderful animals find their forever, loving homes. Anything you can do to give back will make a difference!
I hope you’ll join me in volunteering with shelters and rescues to put some good back into the world!
Do you have more ideas on ways to give back? Be sure to comment below!