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Episode #104

How to Find Local Organizations to Collaborate with for Photography


UPDATED: May 25, 2023
ORIGINALLY AIRED ON September 27, 2022


Working with nonprofits and community groups is a fantastic way to both grow your skills in photography AND use photography for conservation impact, all while opening doors for future photography opportunities. Here's how to get started.


Build momentum in your photography by working with nonprofits

Collaborations can be incredibly fulfilling experiences.

When you find an organization, a nonprofit, a community group, or a foundation that can use the images you create to expand their impact and create positive change — whether that is fundraising, awareness campaigns, or creating action around initiatives — you know your work is having direct effect on causes you care about.

Collaborations are also amazing opportunities to learn and grow when you're just getting started in conservation photography, and moving from stand-alone shots to visual storytelling.

They can open up access to interesting stories, build your portfolio, lead to connections for networking, and even provide paid creative work… all while building friendships that last.

But you may be thinking, “Sounds great, Jaymi, but how do I actually connect with an organization to get started?”

So that's what this episode is all about.

I walk you through:

  • the straightforward steps for searching out organizations local to you
  • how to figure out which orgs you actually want to reach out to
  • and how to have the best first meeting possible so you start off with a foundation of trust

Resources Mentioned

Episode 104: How to Find Local Organizations to Collaborate with for Photography

Shownotes: ConservationVisuals.com/104

(Digitally transcribed, please forgive any typos)

Jaymi Heimbuch:
[00:00:00] Jaymi: Hey there and thanks so much for tuning into this episode of impact the conservation photography podcast. So last week we had a, just really fun interview with Suzi Eszterhas and Dr. Rebecca cliff, if you haven't listened to it yet, I definitely suggest. Going and downloading it and having to listen.

[00:00:18] Jaymi: It's a really amazing episode. And Suzi is a photographer. Dr. Cliff is a scientist who runs a foundation for sloth conservation, and the two of them make an amazing duo for coming up with really smart ways to use the photography that Susie creates to go to work, to raise funds for the foundation that Dr.

[00:00:39] Jaymi: Cliff runs well, collaborations like this are for us photographer. Insanely fulfilling. There are so much fun. So many of us are overjoyed when we can find an organization, a nonprofit, a community group, a foundation that can use the images that we create that want us to create imagery for them. [00:01:00] And that together, we put that imagery to work, to be able to create positive change, whether that is fundraising or maybe it's awareness campaigns, or, uh, creating actions around certain initiatives, whatever it may be.

[00:01:14] Jaymi: It's a lot of fun. , I know when I was getting started in conservation photography, my relationship and collaboration with one organization really was pretty pivotal in helping me. Not just to get better at the photography that I was creating, but also get really familiar with and savvy with and comfortable with different ways to put imagery to work for that organization.

[00:01:38] Jaymi: I worked alongside a group that trains dogs, how to sniff out scat and other clues for scientific research. So they're out there basically gathering all this great data. in order to look into all kinds of different things. And I thought that their work was so amazing. The team is just so incredible. What they do is such a unique approach.[00:02:00]

[00:02:00] Jaymi: So I dove in with volunteering for them. We ended up creating, I think it was four years in a row or five years, four years. We did calendar fundraisers that raised, uh, I think it was about $20,000 for the organization. I built a website for them using a ton of the imagery that I'd created, uh, created portfolios for them to use on social media and all kinds of other stuff.

[00:02:22] Jaymi: And even though we haven't worked together for several years, there are doors still opening up for me and for them as well, just because we know of each other and can send leads each other's way or help out in some way.

[00:02:37] Jaymi: and I absolutely still consider them really good friends. The relationship that I built with the team just is one of the more meaningful things that I have inside of my conservation photography work. And also my experience with that organization helped to inform the things that I could do on my. Own projects outside of volunteering.

[00:02:58] Jaymi: So I ended up taking a [00:03:00] lot of the knowledge that I built, , in approaching storytelling, visual storytelling in approaching, , fundraising

[00:03:06] Jaymi: and building websites that use this really compelling imagery in a way that attracts audiences and helps to inform audiences and

[00:03:15] Jaymi: all of the work I did with that organization, the beginning helped me to grow. So I could do that better. In other projects, I formed down the road. So I know this is true for me. There's story like this after story like this after story like this among other conservation photographers. And I know that many of you are thinking,

[00:03:33] Jaymi: I really wanna learn how to take these first steps in volunteering, how to really gain that kind of experience and access that comes with volunteering. But how do I do that? So you may have listened to last week's interview with Susie and Becky and been really inspired and thought, okay, this sounds amazing.

[00:03:54] Jaymi: How do I do that? How do I find a collaboration like that? How do I get that type of, kind of [00:04:00] legwork and experience under me? So I wanted to dedicate this episode to really digging into strategies. You can use to find an organization near you that you could collaborate with. So, if you are really excited about the idea of getting out there, getting on the ground with an organization, a nonprofit, a foundation, something that you really are passionate about, and you don't know how to start then this episode is definitely for you. And I have a few very simple steps. That'll get you moving forward really quickly.

[00:04:30] Jaymi: Now, step number one is all about starting to build a list. Now, the first thing I suggest doing is a Google search. Literally opening up your laptop or getting on your computer, pulling up Google and starting to search terms for things you're interested in, plus your area and seeing what pops up. So for instance, I might be interested in ocean conservation, plus Oregon central coast or Marine conservation plus Oregon coast or my [00:05:00] town name or county name or nearby landmarks and seeing what comes up often, if you search something like that, like forest conservation, watershed health, um, I mean conservation dogs, whatever it might be that you are interested in, plus your area.

[00:05:18] Jaymi: A lot of times organizations are gonna pop up that you didn't even know existed. So you can start to make a list using that also face. Book groups are a really great resource for asking about this. You may have Facebook groups that are based on your area, like neighborhood groups or city groups or community groups.

[00:05:36] Jaymi: And you can hop in there and just simply ask people what wilderness, wildlife research conservation, uh, outdoors, nature related organizations they know of that they might recommend checking out and you don't need to say, Hey, I'm a photographer looking for a collaboration. You can just simply say, Hey, I'm curious about getting more involved in the community.

[00:05:58] Jaymi: I'm interested in [00:06:00] nature or wildlife or whatever it may be. Does anyone know of groups that would be of interest or nonprofits that, , I might check out and see what people say? Facebook groups actually are a huge resource. And you may even find groups that are groups run by organizations on Facebook.

[00:06:17] Jaymi: If you start to do a search there for the same things that you would plug into a Google search. And of course there's always the research that is simply asking friends and family, you might be surprised at, especially when you're reaching out to friends. Organizations that they're involved with or people they know or leads they might have that you never would've expected.

[00:06:38] Jaymi: So definitely reach out and ask your friends and family like, Hey, I'm interested in learning about any organizations or nonprofits, wildlife rescue rehab, that sort of thing in my area, start to create a list of all the possibilities that you might want to check. And I suggest starting with a list first and not just running forward with the first idea that pops in your [00:07:00] head because the second step is to research organizations.

[00:07:06] Jaymi: See an organization might sound great at first glance, but you really wanna spend the time to get to know a lot more about what that organization is like. So I suggest making either dedicated notebook pages or if you're like me and love spreadsheets, I would totally make a spreadsheet about this.

[00:07:25] Jaymi: , but go ahead and start to look up the websites of the organizations that are on your list and ask questions about. Who are they exactly? What are they all about? What is their mission also look at what activities do they do? Are they really public facing? Like they do a lot of events with the public or meetings or activities, or do they really stay more like research focused or they have their own.

[00:07:52] Jaymi: Events or activities going on that are just really kind of like club oriented. I'm kind of thinking of like Aon chapters, [00:08:00] where they might have some events that involve the public, but some events that are really about member involvement. What exactly are they up to? Do they have a newsletter if they do. I definitely suggest subscribing to that. Look also at maybe campaigns that they've run or fundraising activities that they've done, are they very active in these areas? This is a really great thing to look at too, because a lot of organizations that might do some great on the ground work, but not a lot of maybe campaigns or fundraising, they might be looking for a collaborator who is an amazing photographer and wants to create ways and strategies to use imagery for fundraising.

[00:08:41] Jaymi: Also check out annual reports, if any organizations like 5 0 1 and nonprofits. , if any of those are on your list, you're gonna see an annual report and you can read through that to see a lot of detail about. What it is, they're working on what they've accomplished, what kind of funding they get, where [00:09:00] that funding goes.

[00:09:01] Jaymi: This is all really helpful information to understand things like the size of the organization, what they already have going on in terms of campaigns, fundraising, media creation. But also where there might be some gaps where a photographer can really help, especially a photographer who enjoys strategizing how to put images to use, where that could be really helpful.

[00:09:26] Jaymi: And finally also look at how they currently use imagery is their website. One that could really stand to use fresh images that are laid out in a more compelling way so that people visiting the website are more drawn in or is their imagery already really. Polished and streamlined. What's the vibe, what's the style.

[00:09:46] Jaymi: What's that like? So really start to take an assessment of what the organization is all about, who they are, their mission, how active they are and what types of activities they're doing all the way from events to [00:10:00] campaigns, fundraising, and then also any kind of information you can gather about what kind of level they're at in how they're already utilizing imagery in a smart way, and that might inform some opportunities for you. Now, once you've done a bunch of research on these organizations, you're gonna start to have a grasp of not only which organizations could really benefit from a photographer, volunteering, but also which ones you're actually drawn to.

[00:10:27] Jaymi: It's really important at this point to pause and think, do I genuinely believe in this organization, do I feel excited and inspired and compelled to help who really draws me in which organizations are doing things that make me feel fired up. And that make me feel like I can't wait to do something to help out this organization.

[00:10:50] Jaymi: I would be over the moon if I could actually be part of the work that they're doing. That's really. Because when you're starting to form a collaboration, especially if it's one of the [00:11:00] first ones you're building that passion that you have for the work that they're doing will drive you forward. Even when things get a little tough and they likely will, whether that's in trying to figure out avenues forward on certain fundraising campaigns or how to use imagery or all kinds of other things, you really wanna feel like it is worth your time, your effort, your energy to take part.

[00:11:25] Jaymi: So here you can do basically a gut check of which organizations are really drawing you in. And that. You're pretty sure that no matter what you back, the work that they're doing, and you want your imagery to be a tool that they're utilizing, you want your imagery, the time, the effort, everything that you put into creating it to be put to good use so that they can benefit.

[00:11:48] Jaymi: And the work that they're doing can benefit from it.

[00:11:52] Jaymi: Now at this point, you kind of know which organization or organizations plural are kind of drawing you in. And at [00:12:00] this point, if you've never connected with them before, or they're new to you, or even if they're familiar to you, but you've never really been involved with them, I suggest before reaching out simply volunteering.

[00:12:11] Jaymi: Maybe go to a few of their meetings for members or volunteer at a few events, kind of get to know the work they're doing a little bit better. Get a sense of who is part of running the organization. What are they like? Build relationships with the people who are there running things

[00:12:29] Jaymi: no, of course you don't have to volunteer with an organization before simply approaching them as a photographer, interested in helping. I just like this idea, because sometimes if you aren't familiar with an organization, you really wanna know more about the types of people you'll be working with before you raise your hand to say, Hey, let's work together. It gives you an opportunity to help out for a while. And then if you realize that maybe it's not a fit, you can quietly back out and no one would even bat an eye. Right. It's sort of like taking an [00:13:00] organization on a test drive before you actually commit to volunteering as a photographer or coming up with plans and strategies.

[00:13:07] Jaymi: But once you do find an organization that you are thinking a hundred percent, I'm ready to roll forward. I know I wanna collaborate with them. Then it's time to simply approach the organization. Now, in the last episode with Susie and Becky, they gave some amazing insights into green flags and red flags that pop up when photographers and foundations are starting to connect and talk with each other so again, if you haven't listened to that episode, totally recommend it. It's a very fun interview, but to kind of go over some of the things that they mentioned, as well as what I've experienced, let's go ahead and spend a little bit of time on your approach

[00:13:47] Jaymi: now, whether you approach an organization in person or via email, one of the biggest things I recommend first and foremost is to figure out who should you be talking to? So if it's a smaller organization that might be really obvious, there might [00:14:00] be only a couple of folks. Maybe it's a president or on someone on the board of directors.

[00:14:04] Jaymi: If it's a larger organization, it might be someone who heads up their marketing or communications department. Just get clear on who might be one of the best people to approach to have this conversation about volunteering as a photographer, then just simply reach out to them and say, Hey, I've learned a lot about your organization.

[00:14:23] Jaymi: I'm really passionate about what it is that you do and, and believe in your mission. I'm a photographer. And I would love to sit down and talk about ways that I might be able to help out or volunteer as a photographer for your organization. Is there a time that we could sit down and chat? And the reason why I suggest asking for a time to just sit down and have a conversation

[00:14:45] Jaymi: is because more often than not, you're gonna have a better, not only initial response, but a better ongoing collaboration. if you open the conversation, not around what you want to provide to them, but wanting to [00:15:00] hear what it is that they might need help with, where are areas that they think that they might be able to utilize photography. You may have a ton of ideas from your research and that's great. Have those written down, have them as ideas. But really when you're volunteering, it's not about you, right?

[00:15:17] Jaymi: It's about the organization and they might have needs that you didn't know about, or that you didn't expect where your photography could be put to amazing use, but more importantly, approaching it in a way where you wanna. What help they might need areas where they feel they might need some assistance or volunteering effort.

[00:15:39] Jaymi: It sets a tone that you are there to be of service to them. It creates more trust right away. It creates more of an open conversation. It creates a more collaborative spirit, right from the beginning, because you are squarely saying I'm not here to use you as a project. I'm not here to dive in and [00:16:00] take over.

[00:16:01] Jaymi: I'm here to genuinely figure out how my skills as a photographer can be put to best use helping you achieve your mission, whatever that may be in the organization. So I really suggest approaching whoever it is in the org that you approach with the suggestion of a conversation to find out more about . Where you might be of.

[00:16:21] Jaymi: And again, in that conversation really take the time to listen thoroughly because as they are letting you know where they're struggling or where they're needing help, it might trigger ideas for you in where your photography could be useful, that they're completely overlooking or never thought about before I mean after all, you are a creative. And so there may be ways that you're inspired or it, your creative brain is sparked that maybe they haven't thought of. And so you can write that down and maybe bring that up as suggestions. And these suggestions can be amazing because there are creative solutions for something that the organization has [00:17:00] already said, they want help achieving.

[00:17:02] Jaymi: And in that conversation as you're listening deeply, and not only coming up with creative ideas, you can also understand more deeply how you can also benefit from collaborating with them.

[00:17:15] Jaymi: There might be activities or locations that you'll be able to get access to, to photograph and get unique images that you'd never be able to get access to. You might be invited to go out on activities, whether that is maybe it's habitat restoration or scientific research or monitoring or something that the public usually doesn't get to see, but you would be able to gain access to document that, and not only build portfolios for the organization, but build your own visual storytelling skills in ways that you'd never be able to.

[00:17:47] Jaymi: There's a lot that comes out of initial conversations. When you do more listening than talking, even though you are very eager to get going and support them. When you do more listening than talking in these initial [00:18:00] conversations,

[00:18:01] Jaymi: you walk away with way more ideas and opportunities than you otherwise might have. You may have ideas already going in, which is great, but you're gonna walk away with even more to pursue or to think about and ponder. And again, it just starts out with a vibe of trust and collaboration, which is a really critical foundation to any collabo.

[00:18:26] Jaymi: So let's go ahead and review really quickly when you're thinking about like, Hey, I wanna find an organization in my area that I can collaborate with and really feel like my imagery is being put to best use. The first thing to do is a search of the organizations that are in your area, the non-profits, the clubs, the community groups, whatever it may be.

[00:18:46] Jaymi: You can find this on Google by searching a conservation term that you're interested in. Like. Marine health or watershed health or forestry and your location. You can also ask around in Facebook groups or even on Instagram. [00:19:00] And of course, ask friends and family, then dive into researching the organizations that pop up on your list.

[00:19:07] Jaymi: Find out really what their mission is. What activities are they doing? What campaigns do they run? Uh, do they have a newsletter? And can you subscribe to that? Read their annual. Study up on everything you can find about what the organization is doing, what they're trying to achieve, and also looking at how they currently use imagery, where are some gaps that you might be able to help with, or even are there some organizations that are pretty polished out there where you can look at the ways that they're using imagery and then apply that to another organization that you might wanna work with that isn't using imagery in that way.

[00:19:44] Jaymi: Lots of really great ideas come from this research. And importantly, you'll be able to understand more about organizations that you're genuinely interested in being involved with. It's not enough for an organization to just simply be doing cool [00:20:00] stuff. You wanna feel really drawn. You wanna feel like you resonate with that organization and that you firmly believe in what it is that they're doing then if this is a newer organization to you and you wanna take a moment to get to know the people who are really running the organization and, and learn a little bit more about the vibe of them. You can volunteer,

[00:20:20] Jaymi: if they have a membership, you might become a member. Maybe they're asking for volunteers to help out at events or at activities. You can always volunteer for a while and kind of get to know them a little bit better before you actually reach out saying, Hey, I wanna work alongside you as a photographer, but once you do have that org that you feel a hundred percent behind, . Find out who to reach out to who's the best person to really get in contact with. Is it the volunteer organizer or community organizer? Is it the communications director who seems to be the right person in that particular organization to reach out to. Reach out to them and see if you can get a meeting to sit down and find out more about [00:21:00] how you might be able to help them with photography, what are their needs?

[00:21:04] Jaymi: Where might they be able to utilize photography that they might want? You can come into the meeting with some ideas of your own,

[00:21:12] Jaymi: but also listen really deeply you may be able to spot areas that they aren't seeing, that you realize is a great opportunity for them to utilize imagery.

[00:21:23] Jaymi: And you might hear about opportunities that make volunteering not only fun for you, but quite beneficial in terms of access or leads or even referrals down the road.

[00:21:34] Jaymi: And here's my last bit of advice before we wrap up, if you are really interested in volunteering with an organization, or let's say you've been volunteering for a while and you love it, you really support that organization. But at the same time, sometimes you feel like.

[00:21:51] Jaymi: Maybe they ask a lot of you or some boundaries get pushed a little bit, or maybe you're trying to figure out how to set your [00:22:00] boundaries a little more clearly, or maybe you're wondering about just what you, as the photographer needs to have in place when it comes to photographing events or other people or the public

[00:22:09] Jaymi: Please go listen to episode 47. How to be a better volunteer with seven business mindset strategies, you can find the link in the show notes, or you can simply type in Jamie H J a Y M I h.com/ 47. The number 47,

[00:22:30] Jaymi: in that episode, I cover things like how to have really open conversations from the start and how that benefits everyone involved setting boundaries and clarifying the mutual benefit that both you and the organization received by working together, making sure that paperwork is in place.

[00:22:47] Jaymi: And also even knowing when it's okay to walk away from a collaboration that just doesn't seem to be working.

[00:22:54] Jaymi: Again, that's episode 47, J a Y M I [00:23:00] h.com/four seven. It actually works as a great part two to this episode. So I hope that you'll check it out and enjoy it.

[00:23:09] Jaymi: And meanwhile, I do hope that you're inspired to find an organization that seems like an amazing match and getting out there to see how you can help, because again, I've experienced it. And so many other photographers have experienced it that when you find the perfect. Person or group or org to collaborate with magic can really happen.

[00:23:30] Jaymi: It's some of the best, most fun work that we can really do. You're free to experiment. You're free to try new things because you've built these strong relationships that are built on mutual respect and a shared passion for a certain conservation cause

[00:23:46] Jaymi: and it's a really amazing way to grow as a photographer, as you start to move away from creating just standalone shots and wanna build your skills in visual storytelling, collaborations, help you [00:24:00] learn so much so quickly in that realm. Okay. I hope this episode was helpful and thank you so much for listening in I'll talk to you next week.


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