Photography donations are a long-running staple in many charity auctions. Like other business services, they are best offered in the silent auction (not live auction). Usually the auction donation is a free sitting with one print for a family, a couple, or an individual.
Most of these donated photography services display well. Photographers often provide great images of their work to serve as a prop. But despite the visual appeal, these items rarely sell for top dollar, if at all. In many cases, the item receives no bids.
Rather than offering this package year after year, consider making a thoughtful change to it. Sometimes these packages can sell, but they usually need to be tweaked.
Here’s a suggestion to alter the donation for more bids.
Instead of offering a sitting for a single family, ask the photographer if there’s room for variation. A more popular item is a family photo party.
The gist of this donation is to have several families enjoy the day together. Typically one family with a large home and yard agrees to host the event. It might be a summer BBQ or play date — it’s simply an excuse to get people together.
Up to ten families might attend (visit with the photographer about what is reasonable), socializing at someone’s home. The photographer takes candid shots and more casual family portraits for everybody in attendance.
In one day, all families are photographed, but they aren’t posed shots in a studio.
Here’s the $64,000 question: If a sitting is usually a 3-hour to 4-hour process in the studio, is a photographer willing to visit a home for perhaps a longer day, but have the opportunity to shoot several families in a more candid way?
The advantage of shooting in a studio is that the photographer can control lighting and the weather becomes irrelevant. He might have access to more photography equipment in his studio, too. Shooting outside or in someone’s (large) home is more challenging. But on the flip side, if the photographer is willing to shoot on location, the upside for him is the sale of more lifestyle prints to more families.
Imagine a cute photograph of your daughters swinging on the swingset, or your children playing kickball. Those lifestyle shots are often harder for a parent to capture so they’d be willing to pay for a cute photograph from the photographer.
This results in a win-win-win prospect.
* The photographer wins because they are put in touch with more families to whom they can sell prints. One to three prints might be included in the donation with all others purchased.
* The guests are more likely to bid on the item at the auction because it’s “different,” appealing to their needs and wants. Lifestyle photos taken as party of a family photo party have a better chance of selling than a traditional portraiture item.
* You (the nonprofit) raise more money as bidders compete to buy this donation at your charity auction.
Another thought – you could add a family photo package to an existing auction donation. For example, “You are bidding on the traditional Hawaiian BBQ for 8 families, to be held July 8 at the Smith’s home. Included in this item is a photographer package whereby all families will have the chance to sit for a casual family portrait and have the chance to buy additional candid shots of their children playing throughout the day.”
Talk to your photographer about options.
If you’ve been selling your existing photo packages for good money, don’t change the donation.
But if your photography packages haven’t sold, see what you can do to change it to a family photo party.