One of the most common questions I’m asked is: how do you charge a nonprofit? My response is normally: Just like everyone else. So here is my answer to a new freelancer’s questions on the matter:
As I told you on the phone, the way you want to run your business is totally up to you. Some people might say you should always be paid for work not matter what. I agree when you do a job for free because you “believe in the cause” you are hurting yourself and the industry. It’s fine for my Dad who has a full time job and likes to volunteer at United Way to take pictures. But he’s not as well trained or as good as you and I are NOR does he have to pay for his gear/computers/CF cards/etc. that we do when we work for this as our job. So people who get our services should be paying … in some way.
My feeling is photographic services are exchange goods. Sometimes its money, sometimes its goods. I did a job once for a college where I got paid with a brand new copy of the Adobe Creative Suite (a $1000 cost for me to buy it outright so instead they bought it for me in exchange). Hell, I’d do a job for a side of beef if it made business sense. Remember Atticus Finch. However, I usually discount my rates for nonprofits depending on their size and the situation.
Sometimes nonprofits will realize how important the photography is and give you a great deal of money. This is rare.
Sometimes nonprofits will say, “Well we can’t pay you b/c we’re a nonprofit.” That’s absolute and total crap most of the time. They pay their employees. They pay for posters, copies, food for parties, the cleaning lady, all other sorts of services…. What they mean is: “We don’t want to pay for photography because we’ve never done it before and haven’t been educated about how important it is and someone will do it around here for free.” Joe the IT Guy might have been taking their photos from that point on and they don’t realize how great your pictures will be in comparison so you need to educate them about it.
I usually say, “Well, if this were a corporate job, I’d charge XXX but since you are a nonprofit I will only charge you XXX because I understand you are limited in their budget.” Then I tell them how they can use it in posters, brochures, on the web and I usually suggest they look into getting a graphic designer on the team so we can really make the images pop. Then I send them to my “Clips” section on my website where the Calvert Foundation stuff is and how good that looked with the Graphic Designers help.
Always start the conversation assuming they will pay you. They are going to start it off thinking you’ll do it all for free. SO you need to find a common ground. With the right portfolio they will see that they need you and show what you can do for them.
Now, there are 3 ways to approach nonprofits when you want to talk about money:
a) Ask them to come up with a budget for photography and see what you get. If they say, we just don’t have the money. You make the call. I usually say no. If they can’t even come up with a $100 then I’m not sure I want them handling my pictures. You can say, “Oh well. That’s a shame b/c I really wanted to work with you!!” Or “Okay, but next time you are coming up with a budget for (this project) I’d love to be considered when you allocating funds. If you decide later on that you can shuffle some funds around I’d love to be on the team.”
b) If this is a nonprofit you want to work with in another country and they’ve , you can always say, “You can fly me over there, pay for my lodging and food and I’ll waive my usual fee.” That’s perfectly acceptable and will be a huge benefit to you if you ask them to stay in the country for a longer time than just when they need you. Then you can go to another client and say, “Hey I’ll be in (foreign locale) for 3 weeks in August, would you be intersted in any coverage while I’m there?” and then you charge them for the time and waive the trip costs. I usually charge a foreign travel fee though because it’s more expensive over there.
c) You can always suggest when they are grant writing to write a portion of the grant for photography. Meaning, they are applying for a grant for the org and they were going to ask for $50,000 but instead they can write a $55,000 budget into that with an extra 5K for photos. They can get a LOT of pictures out of that money and a lot of images for an collection for their marketing for the year.
Remember too that rights usage is just as important in this case. DO NOT give away your pictures dammit. They will take advantage of this in a big way. You have to explain that they only get a limited time to use them for the fee you charge. I usually give 2 years for promotional materials and internal publications and 3 years for websites. That’s a STUPID good deal and I am diligent about following up. I make them pay for the pictures after their terms are up.
I explain it like, “It’s like leasing a car. I own the images because I took them but you are leasing them with the fees you are paying. Just like a car, if you wanted to own them outright, you’d have to pay a lot more but this way you can pay limited fees and still get all the use out of it you want.” If they want to keep coming back to you for edits, explain that it’s $100 research/photoshop fee each time. “Just like that car is leased form the dealer, if you want to keep bringing it into the shop, you’ve got to pay for it.”
Finally, remember this: if you believe in this kind of work, you need to be able to keep in business to keep helping them out. If you don’t charge for the pictures, give away your rights, are lazy about billing or aren’t firm in the negotiations, then you’ll go out of business and wonder years from now: “How did that happen when I was doing such good work for such good people?!?” You don’t want that.
SO there you go! That’s my opinion on charging nonprofits! :)