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How Ziggy Marley, Ann Monteith, A Generous Bride, and Toms Shoes Taught us About Charity - PPA Today

How Ziggy Marley, Ann Monteith, A Generous Bride, and Toms Shoes Taught us About Charity

By Mariah Ashley

ashley_charity_2.jpg"You can't put the dollars before the heart. The heart has to come first and then the dollars come later." - Ziggy Marley

Trish and I were tired when we stumbled into the PPA Charities event at Imaging USA. We wanted to hunker down in our hotel room that first night but the excitement to meet our SMS mentor, Mary Fiske Taylor, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, API, was enough motivation to get us out the door and downstairs to the party. Well, that and Trish insisting I get my lazy butt out from under the covers.

We arrived just before Ann Monteith, M.Photog.Cr.Hon.M.Photog., CPP, ABI, API, A-ASP took the podium to talk about PPA's involvement with Operation Smile. Although we didn't know a thing about Operation Smile before her talk, it took only a few minutes for her to move us to tears. As she spoke about the lives of all the children that had been helped, Trish turned to me and said, "You know we're here for a reason don't you?" I smiled and nodded at her uncanny ability to read my mind. There was no question that we would be involved with PPA Charities, the only question remaining was how.

PPA Charity's Operation Smile is a fabulous idea, but seemed more suited for portrait photographers with studios. How could we as wedding photographers tweak the idea to work for our business model? Trish and I wracked our brains, but nothing seemed to quite make sense; kids, dogs, families? None of these traditional ideas fit our brand or, for that matter, our expertise. One of the wonderful things about Operation Smile is that it creates buzz and attracts potential future clients for the portrait photographer as well as contributing a nice donation for Operation Smile. We needed to figure out a way to make it work for us too. And then as usual being the idea girl, Trish came up with a brilliant plan.

ashley_charity_1.jpgInstead of children's portraits, we would offer professional headshots for...wait for it...all the other wedding professionals in our market! That's right, florists, caterers, wedding planners, etc, etc. Who doesn't need a fabulous headshot for their website, Facebook page, or heck... even dating site? In another stroke of genius, she decided we should host the event at one of the high-end venues in our area, and they happily and generously agreed to do it. Not stopping there, Trish asked some of the vendors to donate floral arrangements, sweet treats, and stationary to our "Smile Shop," hoping that participants might pick up a "goody to go" as a way of generating more money for the event. She even asked a friend and local videographer to film the event and make us a little documentary (below) to share with other photographers in the future. Trish was off and running with her idea, and I steered clear of her brainchild given that after my fear of heights, my second biggest fear is that I will throw a party and no one will show up.
The day of the event thankfully proved my fears irrational as person after person showed up to have their photograph taken. We got florists, wedding planners, caterers and many, many more. The loveliest surprise was that the majority of the people who showed weren't vendors that we had close relationships with. We photographed many wedding professionals who we barely knew and it gave us the chance to make quite a few new connections. We even had a fellow wedding photographer come to get snapped!

At the end of the day we wrote a check to PPA Charities/Operation Smile for $1700. What happened next was also unexpected--the compliments and thank yous started rolling in on Facebook from all of the people who had their headshot taken (now their new profile pic). Our subjects were crazy for their new pictures, many felt they had "never looked so good in a photo." You really can't pay for that kind of advertising.

We were on a roll with giving back and didn't want it to stop with the Operation Smile event. One day soon after the event I had a meeting with a bride to go over the details of her wedding. I always ask who the other vendors will be and she told me she was considering a florist who donates a significant portion of her profit to charity. She said, "When you are planning a wedding you grapple with these two sides of yourself. One of the sides is like,'s all about me, it's my big day and I'm going to do it big! The other side just feels kind of yucky about all the money you are spending on the wedding."

I could instantly relate to what she was saying. I sometimes feel like a bit of a hypocrite myself because the personal me is frugal and sensible but the professional me is like, yes (insert client here) you should do it big it's your one day! I started ruminating the florist's business model.

Later that same week, I needed to buy a birthday gift for my husband and I decided on sunglasses for our upcoming vacation. My husband normally gets his sunglasses at the dollar store, but considering it was for his big Five-O, I thought maybe something a little more special was in order. I remembered that Toms had a line of sunglasses and that for every pair bought the gift of sight is given to one disadvantaged person. One pair of glasses = one pair of prescription glasses, sight saving surgery or medical treatment. Who can't feel good about spending $150 on sunglasses if someone else in the world gets their cataracts fixed? You following my train of thought here? Eureka!

The dots were connected. This is how we could keep giving to PPA Charities/Operation Smile. We'd kick it like Toms. For every wedding we booked, we would donate $240, the cost of one life changing surgery for a child born with facial deformity. We started immediately. The very first bride we told about Operation Smile booked us at our meeting. She told us that Operation Smile was actually a charity that she had always given to and that she felt it was "meant to be." And here's where we come full circle, putting the heart before the dollars and then having the dollars coming later. Thank you Ziggy, Ann, our generous bride, and Toms. Thanks for showing us how to put the heart back into what we do. We're so grateful.


You ladies are brilliant! I am implementing all of this today! Thank you so much for sharing such a great idea. I volunteered at the booth twice at Imaging this year and have been trying to come up with a plan on how to help financially. I am so excited!

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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on June 3, 2013 6:10 PM.

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