It happened again: a new, local non-profit reached out and asked me to do some work for them or for access to my kids. Just a few hours worth of work and, since they’re a “non-profit,” they don’t have a budget but they can offer a meal at one of the nicest places in town in exchange …

No. I said no. I said no to doing it, I said no to passing it along.

With one caveat: I asked if everyone else was donating their time and supplies.

If they come back and say yes, then I will contribute or pass it along to my kids. (I love the restaurant, and I love the owner.)

Who would that include? For starters, the woman who is running this new non-profit would have to be a volunteer. The food suppliers involved would have to be donating their products. The delivery company would need to be donating their services. Whatever office space she’s working out of would need to be donated, as well as the utilities to keep her online. The web development team and hosting company would need to be donating their services, too.

Going to make a banner? Yep, that needs to be donated.

I believe in a lot of the social organizations around town. And, in a community with the highest poverty rate in the state, there are a lot of them to believe in. I also believe in pitching in to be part of the solution – and, so long as everyone else is, I’m even willing to bring my quarter century of experience and tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment to help.

But photographers are a group that gets leaned on pretty hard to do work for free. After all, we already own the gear and, you know, it’s just some photos …

Maybe this person will come back and say, yes – everyone is donating everything, not a dollar is exchanging hands. If so, I’m in.

ADDENDUM, 11:45 AM: I’ve been mulling this some more, I have additional thoughts coming on this. I don’t want to come across as a jerk, but there’s a difference between asking someone to contribute to a cause they believe in and support versus asking someone to perform a service for free. Too often, we are approached without any thought to whether this cause is something we support – we are just seen as a needed service and, under the banner of, “we’re a non-profit,” there’s no thought to compensation.

Mark E. Johnson

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