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The Benefits of Giving

Chances are, you already realize the value and potential of service to your community. You see the results and hear the stories everyday: at-risk children find mentors, hungry people eat, a river basin becomes cleaner. But as an artist, is there something unique you can do? And is there a potential benefit to your own business? Certainly.

Partnering with nonprofit agencies is a no-risk, all-reward business venture. Consider the suggestions below when choosing which nonprofit to work with, and how to benefit from your generosity.

Being a Good Nonprofit Neighbor
Donating your time and talents exposes your artistic work and expertise to new audiences, cultivating new networks and potential buyers. By collaborating with a nonprofit agency, an after school arts program or a place of worship, your business and artistic reach extends through the organization's outreach. With good planning and execution, your relationship can reach every customer and constituent--including those that serve the organization (as volunteers, board members and staff) as well as those who receive service.

Choose you’re nonprofit wisely, since you're aligning your value and reputation with the real and perceived value of the nonprofit or program. What sparks your humane and artistic perspective? Whether your approach is analytical, compassionate or emotional, make sure you choose a well founded and administratively sound, responsible group whose mission is something you believe in. Ask questions. Visit their web site, read annual reports and marketing materials. Talk to supporters, staff and clients. Before offering to help, make sure that the organization's philosophies are in accordance with your own.

Choose your Gift
What can you afford to give? Perhaps it's a matted photograph or watercolor for the nonprofit's lobby, a symbolic artistic rendering or photographic depiction of the logo, a reprint or print series for a silent auction, or an image to use on a greeting card to solicit program funds. Or perhaps you're moved to teach, to help ignite the creativity of the young or the aging that can't afford lessons or supplies. Whatever your choice, you'll be making an impact--nonprofits can benefit from help in a variety of areas.

Administrative service is also valuable. Time given to help develop or deliver creative marketing strategies and arts programming gives you meaningful experiences, connects you to business opportunities and serves as a compelling addition to your portfolio and resume.

Marry Objectives
Once you choose an organization and define your gift as time or a product, you'll want to meet with staff and possibly even board or committee members to discuss ideas, needs and expenses accrued during your service (travel, film, supplies, mats, etc). It's crucial to you and the nonprofit to identify and determine the direction and expectations of your service and anticipated results. It's just as crucial to determine what won't work; be frank and honest.

Don't be afraid to suggest ideas and explore new possibilities. Part of your gift is perspective and experience as an artist, while the organization's gift to you provides new ventures, opportunities and relationships. Together, you may discover a brilliant possibility and plan that far surpasses any original expectation.

Business Benefits
Donating your time and talents to a worthy nonprofit has multiple benefits. Eyeing the business aspect early doesn't diminish the gift. While seemingly self-serving, it serves the agency equally. Just as you'll complete your commitment to the agency or program, you'll want to ensure your gain and theirs are packed with benefits:

    -->With the organization, develop marketing and communications strategies early, and deliver them. Benefits of volunteer service can be promoted in news releases, e-mails, newsletters, letters or postcards, board and committee presentations, brochures, or annual reports. If you're donating a matted photograph or art, you'll want to ensure the organization can produce a high-quality digital replication for their materials and the media.

    -->As a result of your service, you'll discover new friends and

    Associates - a new network and potential market. Keep a ready supply of business cards to distribute; make sure you collect them, too. Follow up with potential contacts and buyers.

    -->Take a bow. Provide nonprofit or program staff with your bio, background materials and contact information. Speak if you're asked. This makes their work easier, and also has potential to increase yours.

    -->Maintain a record of expenses. Then collect any incurred, based on your original discussion and agreement.

    -->Don't forget about tax benefits. While tax laws are unwieldy, change often and vary from federal to state, and state-to-state, most charitable contributions are deductible. Tracking your time, your tangible gifts and expenses is best done along the way. Be sure and ask the organization for a verification letter you'll need at tax time.


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