The space between: what does it take for nonprofits to USE photography effectively?

July 7, 2010 § 8 Comments

And how, as a photographer, can you help a nonprofit use your images? Is it enough just to donate photographs, or do you have a responsibility to help an organization actually communicate?

Once again, there are a lot of different answers to these questions, and they depend a lot on the specifics of the organization in question. Sometimes foundations are responsible for supporting organizations effectively. A grant will make a bigger impact if it isn’t just for a set of photographs, but also for the other elements of an effective advertising or awareness campaign. Sometimes it’s up to the organization to solicit pro bono contributions from professionals with the relevant skill sets. And sometimes it might be up to an individual–perhaps the photographer!–to put in place the other elements of a successful project so that their personal contribution is meaningful.

I had a great conversation this week with Burk Jackson, who has just started an organization called Creative Cares in Portland, OR, that deals with this very issue.

The idea is to create twin databases of people with skills to donate (photographers, videographers or video editors, graphic designers, web designers/developers, writers, art directors, public relations specialists, or project managers) and organizations with projects they need staffed. If you’re a “creative” you fill out this form. If you’re an organization, you apply here. Then Creative Cares matches up people and projects.

To me, this seems like a great system. PhotoPhilanthropy has been thinking through how to go about this as well. We’d love to hear your thoughts about what the best way to do this might be. (Or what’s wrong with other systems you’ve tried.)

Burk is a commercial photographer who took some time off last summer to spend with his kids, and ended up injuring his back and taking five months off. He got to thinking about what really motivated him, and the changes he wanted to make professionally.

He had done a little bit of work photographing for nonprofits, and he found it really exciting and satisfying. “The most amazing stories are out there,” he told me. “But the best work in the world is going unnoticed because no one is telling the story.”

Meanwhile, other people just weren’t sure how to get started. “I run into creatives and they want to give back, but they don’t know how,” Burk told me.

He also heard stories of photographers who had worked with nonprofits, but not seen any real gains come out of it. Some people had taken on long-term projects, only to have the staff suddenly turnover at the organization they worked with. New staff either threw away the images, didn’t know they were there, or didn’t see a way to use them. The photographers were discouraged.

Burk recognizes the importance of accountability on the part of a photographer—if you’ve solicited contributions for a photo project, you need to report on your progress to your donors. Burk recently raised $5,200 from friends and family to do a pro-bono project for a small nonprofit organization in Tanzania. He sent his supporters updates and photos, to let them know how he was spending their money. But the same is true of nonprofits as well. “There needs to be some accountability on the NGO side,” says Burk. “I thought there had to be a better way for creatives to connect with nonprofits and find funding,” while also being able to hold nonprofits accountable for doing something with the donations they (creatives) made.

Part of the reason images sometimes fall through the cracks is that organizations don’t have the rest of the marketing resources they need to use the pictures. You need to have strategists, writers, graphic designers—it takes a lot more to make an awareness campaign than a single photograph.

So who is filling this gap? Are there organizations out there, in addition to Creative Cares, providing this kind of marketing support or consulting to nonprofits? I’ve done a little research, and what follows is a list of leads (for individuals, for organizations, and even one for grantmakers). Please add more via the comments section, or email me with suggestions at (I especially need help with international resources—this list is heavily lopsided toward the U.S.)


The Taproot Foundation is all about “doing it pro bono!” They assemble teams of professionals to assist nonprofits with their projects. And they post frequently on VolunteerMatch.

CommunicAid helps nonprofits with their branding and communications. They are currently changing their name to BrandOutLoud and launching a new website.

Lots of independent marketing or communications consultants will donate time to a project if approached.

And Encore Careers help match people with meaningful jobs to create social change.



Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN)


InfoXchange Australia


Many universities have groups that are reaching out to provide services to the local community. In the Bay Area, for example, the Stanford Alumni Consulting Team provides pro bono consultants to nonprofits.

Compass Point Nonprofit Services

The Conservation Company puts out papers and writeups on capacity and does consulting for nonprofits and foundations.

GEO: Grantmakers for Effective Organizations is a network for foundations and nonprofits to make grantmaking more realistic and effective. They have a great video about themselves.


CreativeCares has the potential to become an auspicing organization for photographers, much like Blue Earth Alliance, so that a photographer can apply for grants in conjunction with a 501(c)3 organization. Since many foundations don’t want to fund individuals, but do want to fund the kinds of marketing and awareness raising projects that photographers are a part of, this is an excellent funding strategy to pursue.

Another matching service for photographers and nonprofits is Photographers for Charity.

Photographers who want to donate specific images to be sold on behalf of charitable organizations can do so via Photographers for Charity (same name as above, but different org) and Collect.Give.

Focus for Humanity has a $15,000 grant for a project done with an NGO. Submissions open September 1st and close November 1st, 2010.

International Guild of Visual Peacemakers is getting going—I just joined their newsletter to see what they’re about. (Incidentally, their facebook page seems to be working better than their website at the moment.)


Lights Camera Help specifically has a volunteer match as well, and their film festival runs July 29th-August 2nd in Austin, TX.


PhotoVoice helps people create participatory photography programs to empower communities.

“I think you should tell everyone to get in touch with each other,” says Burk. If you’d like to contact him, please do so at


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§ 8 Responses to The space between: what does it take for nonprofits to USE photography effectively?

  • […] The space between: what does it take for nonprofits to USE photography effectively? – PhotoPhilant…. Posted in Business, […]

  • Heber Vega says:

    I work as humanitarian photographer, based in Iraq, and a month or so ago, I wrote an article about ‘How NGOs can use the images that photographers produce”. I gave 5 ideas right there. I think photographers today have to be able to do more than just photography for Non-profits, because they need help, they don’t fully understand how images can be used in internet, affecting the promotion of their own stories. Most of the time those images end up sitting on their desks or HDD.
    I want to share the link plus let you know another organization that helps photographer to work with under funded NGOs. Focus for Humanity, google it.
    Here’s my link:

  • Eliza Gregory says:

    Thanks so much, Heber! I’ve included Focus for Humanity in my list above. You article is a great resource–thanks for posting!


  • Eliza Gregory says:

    Also just heard about the Freedom To Create prize, deadline August 15th. Very generous awards!

  • Judith says:

    Dear Eliza,

    Great to read your column on ‘the gap between photography and communications. Also, thanks for mentioning CommunicAid!

    Only recently we have been going through a rebranding process. Therefore we ve become: BrandOutLoud. Our new site will be online soon:

    Also, I would like to add something to your question raised… There shouldn’t be a gap in the first place. 🙂 At BrandOutLoud we believe aesthetic and strong photography is the key to successfull communications: visualise to persuade.

    As there is more to great imagery… Starting with their identity – the story of the NGO itself. Also to encourage and boost local staff members to present a genuine, convincing and authoritative message to the world.

    Best regards,

  • Cory says:


    A friend just sent me your blog post on PhotoPhilanthropy. I would like to share with you my organization – The Collaborative. It’s a bit much to type, and a brand new venture built upon years of my personal experience in this area. It answers many of your questions, but also derails the idea that to do good work you have to raise your own money or do it pro-bono.

    The Collaborative provides creative services to social entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations creating true impact, while simultaneously empowering the next generation of creative leaders focused on social change.

    We provide services in the area of video production, photography, print design, web development, interactivity, branding, and marketing with an innovative pricing structure unlike any other in the industry – designed to provide opportunity to the organizations we work with, but also the up-and-coming young professionals we cultivate. We work with new ventures, established changemakers, and people looking to really push their organization to the next step.

    The idea here is not to be reactive, but strategic. Not to be someone an organization hires and then forgets (as your article puts it), but a team that augments an organization’s goals.

    I would love to tell you more about it… I’m days away from launching the site, but months away from full scale. Nonetheless, I truly believe this model is the way to bridge the gap between impassioned people with skills and people working in the field in a way that mutually beneficially.

    I hope this note finds you well,

    Cory Wilson
    Founder, Director of Collaboration

  • Eliza says:

    Just found another great resource!

    The revamped Mary’s List website is up and running, still at, and still matching up consultants with non profit organizations that need consulting help. Non-profits post jobs for free, and consultants who are members are alerted to the job announcements.

  • […] was also recently granted the opportunity to do an interview with Eliza Gregory from Photo Philanthrophy .  We discussed what it takes for NGOs to effectively […]

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