Sure, I’d Love to Volunteer, But Let Me Ask You This …

Emails, I get emails. And phone calls, too. Sometimes letters, but not often. Mostly emails.

Dear Prof. Johnson,

We are holding a banquet/function/event next week and would like to provide your students with an opportunity for experience in shooting this. We think it will be a great opportunity for them to learn more about photojournalism. While we can’t pay, we will be able to feed them and give them credit/exposure …

Sometimes, these come from charities. Sometimes, they come from people getting married. Those ones, I am often tempted, to pass along to first-semester students. Or my sixth-grader’s classmates.

(YOUR WEDDING? You don’t want to pay a photographer for YOUR WEDDING?)

Instead, I’ve decided on a standard response. I’m dropping it into Text Expander so it will always be available:

Thank you for thinking of my students. Before I forward your note along, I’ll ask a question that they will all ask me: Is everyone else volunteering their services, space and products?

This idea comes from my good friend Stanley Leary, one of the best business people in our business. The thinking is that if everyone is volunteering, we can, too. But if anyone else is being paid, why shouldn’t we be paid?

Why post this today? This week, I got one of these emails. It was from a noted charity that does really good work, something my students would support. But I did some digging.

The space they’re hosting this event in bills out at just over $250 an hour, with a four-hour minimum. I’m guestimating the number of chairs and tables they’ll need, but figure that will be about $100 to seat 1,000 people. Catering will probably be about $20 a person. Then there are projection costs, set-up and tear-down costs … a rough estimate has this event costing $25,000.

A little more research shows the charity has more than $1 million in assets it oversees and has at least an executive director that makes almost $60,000. They have a firm that handles their tax forms and oversees their accounting which was paid over $8,000 last year. They spent more than twice that on “professional fundraising services,” too.

So … this is their Big Event. They want a visual record of it. But they don’t think there’s any value in the images.

I’m still waiting for their response, which I’ll forward along with the request to my kids.

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