I launched my #roadtrip4charity project on the 1st of January, 2020.
We are just over 3 weeks into the project and I thought I'd share some experiences and thoughts gained at this early stage.
Getting support isn't easy
Interestingly, one of the first things I realised with posts related to the project is the lack of engagement in them!
I post regularly on LinkedIn, Instagram, my Facebook Page and the project page and occasionally to Twitter.
Whilst my usual engagement rate isn't anything to shout about, I'm happy with what I get. However when I make a post about the project, and asking people to please share, engage or tag people whom they may know who works for a charity that could benefit from the project, very little or NO engagement takes place.
I find this very curious. I am unsure if the lack of engagement is down to the posts being about supporting charities or if people are inherently sceptical of anyone offering a service for free? Or possibly a combination of the two?
Whatever the reason, unfortunately thus far, my connections and followers haven't been forthcoming in supporting the project. So that was a very early disappointment.
Perhaps people don't think I'm genuine?
Perhaps one of the reasons why people are reluctant to engage and promote is that they do not believe I'm genuine in my motivation for wanting to do this project.
This project is NOT a publicity stunt. I have helped many people and businesses in my life that I have never had a need to post about to social media. I help someone because I'm in a position to do so at the time. Not so that someone can conveniently film it and post it to social media to get comments like, "What an awesome person he is!".
I have undertaken this project during what is a VERY trying time for MYSELF financially. I have unfortunately still not been able to sell my house for the figure that would have made the whole relocation to Wales and the 1 year gap year to be feasible.
Therefore I am still doing my best to get inbound leads for my photography services to cover the bills. It's not an awesome time for me financially HOWEVER, I committed to this project and I don't allow myself to get distracted too easily when I set my heart and mind on doing something.
I Need some help
I turned to social media to bring attention to this project for one reason and ONE reason ONLY. I needed YOUR help.
Due to my current financial situation, my priority has to be around trying to drum up paid work (as a startup I'm simply not where I need to be which is EXPECTED).
By posting about the project on the blog and social media I was hoping that through its power, I'd be able to get charities to get in touch with ME. That I wouldn't have to spend hours a day searching for and reaching out to charities to offer them the free services I'm providing as part of this project.
That with the help of my connections throughout my online presence, I'd be able to concentrate on getting inbound leads for paid work and have the charities approach me off the back of being tagged, or seeing a shared post etc.
So again, I did not opt to promote this project on social media for FAME or PRAISE, but for help and support.
I've gotten the impression that there doesn't seem to be a genuine appreciation for what I am offering to charities. What I'm offering would typically cost anywhere from £300 - £1000+ depending on the requirements of the charity and length of the photoshoot.
Now, I may just not know where to look, but I don't know many/any small business owners who are prepared to undertake a project like this and DONATE as much of their time, expertise and value to someone for no other reason than he wants to? And certainly not for financial benefit.
Despite this, I have already had calls booked with a charity to discuss how the project can help them only for the call never to happen. No contact to reschedule or anything. I've had to then get in touch with them a few days later to see if they were still interested. Please get your head around that, I'm having to 'chase' a charity to provide them with free, professional services.
I've had a message, from a complete stranger whom I've had absolutely no previous contact with, simply saying;
We defo need some shots for our website but not boring ones. I’m interested in photos with a bit of life to represent our organisation".
How about giving me a little bit of an introduction into who 'we' is? I have to assume its a charity as this person was tagged on one of my posts about the project? Or even, an introduction into who YOU are?
This message actually resulted in me taking a few hours to assess if this project was something I really wanted to pursue at this stage. Perhaps I'm being too sensitive?
Perhaps I assume too much about people?
But here's the thing. If I saw a post with someone offering a service I know I'd have to pay for normally, my initial contact with them is going to be far more polite, and a lot less "I expect this."
As much as I'd love to be able to help every charity with every photography need they may have (ie, multiple different dates) I simply cannot do that as the mortgage folks are sort of persistent about those pesky payments!
I do, therefore, have to triage charities and their requirements. For example, a charity that is an hours drive from me, wanting a headshot of 2 people, is just not feasible I'm afraid. A charity needing PR and lifestyle type images of their staff going about their typical day, or a photographer for their special event will again all have to be triaged to determine which will not only provide the most value for the charity concerned but is also achievable for me in my current financial state.
So I'm afraid, getting in touch with an opening message like the above, isn't going to motivate me into thinking you value what I'm offering.
I have also asked charities I have already worked with if they would be so kind as to leave me a recommendation/review or provide feedback to me personally on their experience with me and the images provided.
At this early, initial stage of the project, and given how so many seem to be sceptical, I honestly feel that receiving reviews from the charities I've helped will help reassure other charities that I am doing what is on the tin.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing this blog, no one has yet left a review, which has me questioning whether they are unhappy with something (their email correspondence suggests they are pleased). Was it me? The quality of the images?
I emailed a charity coalition to inform them of the project and whether they had any suggestions on how I could make charities in the UK aware of it. Perhaps they could suggest Facebook pages, websites, directories etc.
What I got back was: "Hi Elton, thank you for your email. Normally we would be happy to promote free services to small charities. but I am a little concerned that the small charities are the subject of the photos, but that larger national charities are the recipients of donations. Is there any way you could share the proceeds with the smaller charities that are the subject of your photography?"
So the fact I'm offering services that would cost hundreds, perhaps thousands of pounds for FREE to support local charities, is apparently, in this coalitions view, "not good enough".
I should ALSO donate the 10% I'm donating from PAID work I get during the road trip, to small charities?
I shouldn't have to justify why I've set the project out this way. But my response was that there is no GUARANTEE of donations. I can only make those 10% donations IF I get paid commission jobs.
On the other hand, the offer to deliver free photography services and images is available right now!
I'm even now, still a little gobsmacked with their reply above. And don't fully understand their thinking at all.
The charities that I have contacted directly myself, have all been very receptive to it and many have requirements in the next few months that they would love me to attend.
So this coalition has taken it upon themselves to make a decision for their entire membership because in their view I'm not doing quite enough. I'm not convinced they are acting in the best interests of the charities they support, but hey ho.
I understand charities are stretched.
They have a never-ending task list.
That is a huge reason why I'm not determined to help as many as I can with this project. I'm a huge advocate that good images in the right marketing hands can greatly improve fundraising and marketing campaigns.
I get that this project isn't going to be a priority for any charity, and I would never expect it to be.
Whilst I've never wanted anything in return from a charity that I help with this project, I do think that requesting a review in exchange for my time is a small thing to ask? I request honest feedback AFTER I have supplied the charity with their chosen images. So it's not a case of 'leave me a good reference or you won't get your images'. Its a case of "Here are your chosen images, please could you leave me your HONEST feedback here?"
So please note, if you are a charity interested in the support of this project, there will be an expectation that you provide feedback, in a reasonable time frame, following delivery of your chosen images.
I've already met some very nice people who are doing what they can for others through their charities under very challenging financial constraints.
These are the people that inspire me.
These are the people I want to bring value to with this project.
People who aren't going through life concerned only with themselves.
People who don't define success by the number of digits in their bank balance.
In a world filled with people obsessed with financial success and self-importance, I'm far more comfortable being in the company of people trying to do positive things for others.
In the pipeline
I have got a few charities that I'm currently speaking to and am quite excited about.
I don't want to give much away at this point, there will obviously be blog posts published once the photo shoots have been done.
So just teasers 😊
One charity I'll be working with to document their soon to open museum including PR images of the opening day.
Another charity I'll be working with on a calendar photo shoot. We are looking to create some dramatic images for a 2021 (and possibly further years depending on volunteer numbers) that the charity can sell to help with fundraising efforts!
If you are so inclined and would like to assist me with my goal of helping 20 charities in 2020, please consider signing up to my newsletter if you'd be interested in attending one of my photography workshops, or commission me to capture your staff headshots, your business event or conference, your wedding day or a portraits in the park session.
📣 Let people know! Please tell people about the project. You never know who is looking/listening.
🤔 You may have forgotten a friend, connection or follower works for a charity and may well welcome the opportunity to benefit from this project.
If you support what I'm trying to do, please share this blog post or any of the other blog posts about the project.
📌 Pin images from this and other blog posts to your Pinterest account.
🚙 I hope to have you along for the journey! 😊
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