We’ve just had our first snowfall of the season and it’s really put me in a holiday mood! So, in the spirit of Christmas giving, I’ve decided to share all of the secrets about how we do our Photos With Santa fundraisers. It’s simple really – just follow these 10 steps:
- Recruit your Santa. I begin in August. Candidates should be young(ish), strong enough to restrain up to 250 pounds of wiggling dogs at a time, gentle enough to cradle a mouse or hedgehog, tenacious enough to control a frightened kitty and deft enough to grasp a lizard. They should be good at taking direction (smile, bend forward, sit on the floor, make “kissing noises”) and be willing to sweat in a velvet and fake fur costume underneath a long curly wig and itchy beard-moustache combo. Have a backup Santa, too.
- Develop a relationship with a retail pet supplies store that is large enough to host an event that brings in approximately 50 additional customers and their pets. Persuade them to help you promote your event; assure them that you won’t trash their store . . . too much.
- Get a photographer. This person should be able to lift, position, re-position (and re-position again) all types and sizes of pets. They should also be quick to assess the temperament of both animal and human subjects and be willing to make whatever kind of humiliating gestures and noises necessary to get the desired reaction for the best photo.
- Find someone who is well-versed in PhotoShop–type software. Convince them to organize hundreds of pictures, accurately crop and prepare selections for printing, while dealing with customers who want to inspect and ogle every pose. This person should be good at staying on task while the line of annoyed people, overactive kids, barking dogs, meowing cats and petrified little furries begins to wrap around the inside of the store. They must have the patience of a saint, an undying smile and the ability to sweetly (and quickly) push the indecisives into committing.
- Locate a techie who is meticulous about their work, has an ability to remain extremely calm under pressure, and who will put up with the insanity of planning, procuring, setting up and implementing all aspects and details of a Photos w/Santa fundraiser. If this person happens to be your husband, ask Santa to put a bottle of top shelf bourbon in his stocking this Christmas.
- Draft one or two volunteers to greet customers, explain the options (sell, sell, sell) and convince people to write legibly while they relinquish their email address on the consecutively numbered Photos With Santa registration forms. This is the crowd management part of the operation – keeping reactive dogs separated, answering questions and assuring folks that the line moves quickly (even when it isn’t.)
- Seek out one or two neighborhood kids or children of your volunteers who can run back and forth from the photographer to the computer with the SD memory cards and paper registration forms. They should be old enough to be able to focus their attention on the task at hand and not get distracted by all the amazing pets.
- Begin promotion approximately 1 month prior to event. Some methods of promoting include social media (facebook, Instagram, Twitter), online calendars, Email blasts, customer bag stuffers and outdoor signs. Design and create them yourself to save money.
- Arrange with store manager to set up the evening prior to the event. Do test shots and make sure all equipment is working. Understand that some folks won’t read your signs; some folks will read your signs. In either case, you will have people show up an hour prior to the start time shown on those signs.
- Make sure to keep all volunteers “in the loop” by sending a reminder email 1-2 weeks prior to the event. Be absolutely sure to send the team a thank you email that includes the results of their efforts. Pray that they volunteer again next year.
NOTE: All people involved are volunteers and must be able and willing to perform these roles for up to 5 consecutive hours, with or without refreshments and/or a bathroom break (depending upon the turnout and demand.)
EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES – A CHECKLIST
All items marked with an asterisk (*) have at least one backup.
Customer Processing, Ornament Production & Payment
- Tables, Table Coverings & Chairs
- Refreshments & Name Tags
- Donation Jar
- Outdoor Signs & Sample Boards w/Pricing (Placed 1-2 weeks in advance)
- Emergency Repair Kit, Masking Tape, Painters Tape, Batteries
- Customer Forms, Clipboards, Pens & Pencils
- Photo Paper
- Photo Ornaments (Case of 100)
- Circle Cutter (Donated By Volunteer)
- 1 GB USB Drives w/Logo (Case of 50)
- Starter Cash & Tablet w/Credit Card Swipe Attachment
- Customer Packets (Bags, Thank You Letter, Business Card)
- Computer* & Power Supply*
- SD Card Reader*
- Continuous Inking Printer* & Ink*
- Extension Cords & Power Strips*
- Camera & Lens* (Donated By Board Member)
- Strobe w/Wireless Trigger & Shoot Through Umbrella
- Extension Cords & Power Strips
- Props (Hats, Bandanas, Bows, Baskets, Rugs) & Noisemakers
- Backdrop (We use our family room drapes!)
- Rocking Chair (Borrowed From A Volunteer)
- Complete Santa Costume (Borrowed From A Volunteer)*
- Santa Makeup
We are blessed with an amazing, dedicated group of volunteers who have stepped up for the past six holiday seasons so that we can do FOUR events like this every year in late November through December.
So, that’s all there is to it.
Oh, and if you are doing more than one Photos With Santa event, I strongly recommend that you get a different set of volunteers for each one – especially for the role of Santa. Make sure you thoroughly launder the sweaty Santa suit, beard and wig between events. You’ll also need to adjust the quantities of supplies accordingly . . . including the amount of bourbon.
To see the results of this year’s Photos With Santa sessions, visit these albums on our facebook page:
Here are some behind-the-scenes photos . . . Enjoy!