Common Mistakes: Not Choosing the Right Charity to Work With

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Giving comes natural to me and is a very wonderful thing. However, it’s important to choose the charities that are right for you and your business.

Every year, I work with three charities I have chosen and believe in. In fact, I had a fantastic experience working with the Wildlife Conservation Society Committee this year. This is actually the second year I have worked with this amazing group, and last year the chairperson was the fantastic Mrs. Stern, a class act herself.

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What I loved about working with this group is, like with any client, they were very clear in what they wanted and was very realistic about how to get it. This year’s theme was “Flights of Fancy,” showcasing the extraordinary world of birds.

It was very easy for our director and event producer Vivia Costalas to make all arrangements with them, making this a very successful event. (Special thanks to Tiffany Reiser-Jacobsen, Director of Special Events at the Wildlife Conservation Society for all your amazing work!)

However, in the past, we have done several charity events that were very close to nightmare experiences. Here are a few issues we had to deal with:

1) They wanted everything for close to free. (This is perfectly okay if I chose the charity.)
2) The committee was a group of several people with completely different tastes. (Very little chance in pleasing them with any design.)
3) They assured me that I’d be getting new business from this benefit. (Good news: yes I have gotten jobs. Bad news: they wanted it to be as cheap as the benefit that I did for almost nothing.)

This is my humble advice for choosing the right charity:

  • When you are first starting out, this is a good way to get exposure. However, make sure that you do not spend a penny of your money (except if you want to of course). You should at least do this at cost, and if possible try to make a small profit.
  • If you are working with a committee, make sure you only answer to one person, and that this person makes all design decisions.
  • If you are doing this event for close to nothing, you need to be very clear about how they are planning to promote you, aside from writing your name in the programs. There is always someone in charge of publicity. Make sure your name appears in all press materials.
  • Like myself, choose three or four charities a year that are very dear and special to you, and learn to say no to others. Since these are not big profit makers, you need to be careful not to start losing too much time and money. (I’ve been there.)

As I said, giving is always a great thing, but be careful about those charming committees who may seduce you with promises. What do you think? And what are your top three favorite charities?