My recent thread asking for volunteer photographers on behalf of a friend drew flak from CSers (http://forums.clubsnap.org/showthread.php?t=219822). Looking through all the comments posted, I thought some information on how Charities/NPOs function might help some photographers, who wants to volunteer their services, know a little more about how these societies function.
[ Definition ]
It would be appropriate to first define the difference between a charity and a NPO. Jargons aside, most public perceive charity to be the likes of Children Cancer Foundations, AWWA and Kidney Dialysis Foundation. And NPOs related to issues such as environment, arts and civic issues. We don't want to get into lengthy discourses over technical definitions so this suffice for now.
[ Charity or NPO, A Personal Choice ]
Every individual have their own cause/issue that tugs at their heart. It could be helping out at CCF and AWWA, or fighting for arts education or civic rights for the public. It really is a matter of personal choice which society, charity or NPO, a person chooses to help.
[ The Ground Situation ]
Some of the bigger NPOs/Charities have the budget and is able to spare some cash as transport allowances for their volunteers. In fact, that is the ideal situation as the volunteer's effort should not be taken for granted and even a token transport allowance would be good. Smaller Charities/NPOs who struggle to find funds for their programs have the unenviable task of choosing whether to give out allowances to volunteers or to redirect those funds into their programs. Needless to say, the NPOs will usually be relegated to back-of-mind if the cause they're pursuing doesn't tug as much at heart-strings. But that is all fine as long as a win-win situation can happen. The opportunity to volunteer also presents an opportunity for the volunteer to build up his/her portfolio. In this case of photography, the opportunity to be sent by Mercy Relief to cover a diaster would more likely garner attention than taking pictures at an event.
[ Chicken and Eggs ]
Photographs are necessary to the charity/NPOs. It shows the face of a society and give public a glimpse of what goes behind the scene. Therefore the small charity/NPOs would really appreciate nice pictures that they can put up on their website. Hence they need the skills offered by more technically savvy photographers. It is all part of the small little things that help these societies grow. I agree these days it's not easy to tell who's honourable or not. We can only really find out when we start helping them out. For photographers who're not making money from their jobs, it's understandable that they'll shy away from volunteering their services. It's not a "I'm wrong, you're right" kind of decision. The charity/NPOs are looking for hope in those who'll help.
[ For Those Who Wants to Help ]
Enough said, here're some resources to help you know more if you're interested to help out.
NVPC (They've information on most charities and NPOs. Also provides a portal for volunteers to "donate" their services).
NCSS (They're the administrator of Community Chest. There're a lot of NPOs and charities affliated with them. Information on tax-exempted societies can be found here).
NAC (If helping to promote arts is the cause you want to pursue).
IRAS (To know the legal definition of "Charities" and "IPCs", please search for "IPC" under "Ask IRAS").
You can usually find specific information to the society you want to help out at the websites above. Failing which, always google.