Friday, July 17, 2009

Five Tips On Working With Non-Profits

First, let me introduce myself, and tell you what you should expect to read about in my blog postings.

My name is Maria Montano, and I am the Web Mistress for Art for Conservation and Fine Print Imaging. I have first hand knowledge of the non-profit world having served on the board for multiple organizations in the Fort Collins community. I also use my photography as an advocacy tool to help raise awareness in the community on a wide range of issues, from sexual assault to donating images to the Save the Poudre coalition.

My blogs on Art for Conservation will be mostly about two subjects: how to work with non-profits to help raise awareness for the causes you care about, and using the internet to promote your work and those causes.

This first blog will be about taking the first steps toward working with a cause in your community. I have found that a lot of photographers and artists want to help, but don’t know how to get involved. Not only does working with non-profits help them, it is a great way to raise your profile as an artist within the local art community, as well as the broader community that you live in.

Introduce yourself

The first thing that you’ll want to do is call or e-mail the volunteer coordinator; this is generally the person responsible for setting up volunteer opportunities within the organization.
When you show up to your meeting, look professional.

Be respectful of their time. Show up no more than 10 minutes early and never arrive late for your appointment.

Come Prepared

Coming into your first meeting, make sure that you know the basics about what the organization does.

I have found that most organizations don’t know how to effectively use imagery to tell their stories. Have several ideas in mind to propose that would fit with what they do.

You should be ready to present your ideas to the Executive Director, or the Board of Directors. This means explaining how your idea will help raise awareness about what they are doing, planning a timeline for when you expect to have the project done and finally a budget of what it is going to cost them.

Be patient

Patience is a virtue when it comes to working with non-profits. Remember, their first goal is to serve the community and raise awareness about issues, and sometimes they don’t get how using images can help them do those things.

They also have to be careful with their image; working with them may require a lot of meetings, and approval from the board of directors for some of your bigger ideas.

Be persistent

Once you finally get approval of your idea, you will need to be persistent to make it a reality. Ask what resources are going to be made available for you to help you with your project/idea and get important contact information from anyone on staff that is assigned to help you. Most non-profits have a limited staff, so plan to do most, if not all, of the work yourself.

Follow Through

This is the most important part of working with non-profits. They are counting on you to do what you said you would do. They will devote valuable time and resources to your project and expect you to represent them in a positive fashion. You get one chance to make a first impression…make it a good one!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thoughts on Hunting

I had an interesting experience a couple of months ago. I sold a big Bison painting to a couple, and delivered it to their home. When I got there, the woman asked if I wanted to see where it would hang. Of course I did! But then she stopped and looked me in the eye. “How do you feel about hunting?” she asked. I answered that I was not diametrically opposed to hunting. She explained that her husband is a hunter, and she ushered me upstairs to what can only be called a Trophy Room.

The heads of Pronghorn, Elk, Deer, Mountain Goats and Bighorn Sheep seemed to watch me as I walked into the room. I couldn’t resist touching the Wolf and Bear “rugs” that stretched out on the floor, complete with heads and claws. In one corner a full-sized brown bear stood guard, front paws poised as if to do battle. They were beautiful and awful at once. “My husband loves the animals he hunts,” she said, as if reading my mind. “Then why does he kill them?” I wondered silently. As I walked out of the room, I could feel the eyes of the Wolf burning into the back of my head.

I grew up on the east coast to a non-hunting family. We lived in a semi-rural area; deer, raccoons, skunks, opossums, squirrels and an occasional black bear were all frequent visitors to our woods. I was – and still am – drawn to animals on a spiritual level. For most of my life I was opposed to all hunting. But I did eat meat. Beef, pork, fish, poultry. All beautifully packaged from the butcher shop.

When I moved west to Colorado, where hunting is much more a way of life than where I grew up, I started to understand the logic, lure and importance of hunting to keep deer and elk populations in check and reinstate humans as part of the natural food chain. At the same time I became aware of feedlots - something I had never seen or thought much about back east.) It didn’t take long for me to determine I’d rather eat meat from an animal that has lived a life free of confinement, antibiotics and steroids than from an animal that has lived its life in the dull, depressing and unsanitary environment of a feedlot.

In the natural world, predators will take out the sick, the old, the weak, the injured. Human predators, however, can be a different story. Some hunt for trophy and so they want the biggest and the best. Which means they are taking the biggest and the best out of the gene pool; the antithesis of natural selection. Some hunt for “sport” – like shooting wolves from an airplane. Some, like my neighbor, hunt to reconnect with nature; bringing home elk or deer meat is a bonus. Some (although I’d say this is a dwindling population in this country) hunt out of necessity for food.

Me? I’d rather hunt with a camera instead of a rifle. I don’t need to kill an animal to assimilate its essence into my being. I’d rather not eat meat at all. But that is me, and I have no quarrel with those men and women who hunt responsibly, who are stewards of the environment, who understand the meaning of “take what you need and leave the rest.”

My feelings on hunting predator animals merely for sport, fur or because certain parts are considered to be “aphrodisiacs,” is simple. I’m absolutely diametrically opposed. I added the word “merely” in there for a reason. I do know on rare occasions it is necessary to track and kill predator animals that repeatedly threaten humans and livestock. But it should be the exception, not the rule.

I recently stumbled upon a great blog that addresses the issue of hunting vs conservation. Well written and thought-provoking, it is worth reading.

As for my painting, which is all about the beauty, power and spiritual energy of the Bison – how do I feel about it living amongst heads and hides? I’m glad to see the hunter adding art to his collection.

Kate Dardine is an Animal and Land spirit artist from Ft. Collins, Colorado. She is also the marketing director for Fine Print Imaging and Art for Conservation.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

I am not a Conservation Artist

By Kate Dardine

Let’s get this straight. I am not, in the true sense, a conservation artist. While I admire and respect those who dedicate their lives to doing the right thing, to making a difference, I am not one of them. I’d like to make a difference - as long as I can do it in between working 32 hours a week, painting, marketing my art work, spending time with my family, taking care of my dogs and horses, paying bills, doing laundry…yadda yadda yadda.

My time for volunteering for causes – no matter how much I’d LIKE to help, is pretty much non-existent. After all, I do need to sleep sometimes. BUT…I CAN do something. I can donate my artwork to causes I feel strongly about. I know, some of you are rolling your eyes, thinking, “If one more non-profit asks me to donate my work I’m going to scream.” I know how you feel. However – guess what? You can choose the causes you donate to. And…if you are a painter, you don’t have to donate original artwork. That is the beauty of prints. In many cases, Art for Conservation’s Printing Partnership Program can provide printing for you at a reduced price.

It’s true, Art for Conservation works with some of the top names in Conservation Photography. Photographers who dedicate their lives to telling the conservation story. But really, these devoted individuals make up only a fraction of artists and photographers in the Art for Conservation Gallery. Most are artists like me – people who care about the environment, but for whatever reason are not able or willing to dedicate their lives to doing something about it. But we can help, by donating paintings or prints to auctions which benefit environmental causes. And, like me, you can sell prints of your work through Art for Conservation’s online gallery. All artists on the site have agreed to donate at least one percent of the sale price of prints sold to the conservation organization of their choosing. Art for Conservation also donates one percent. With each of us giving up just a little, together we can make a big difference!

Click here to see Kate Dardine's prints on Art for Conservation.