Help-Portrait Franklin is a group just south of Nashville, Tenn. They have four planning committee members and 40-50 volunteers for setup and the day. Last year’s and this year’s HP event is held at New Hope Academy, a private Christian school in Franklin which reserves 50 percent of its seats for low-income children with a commitment to launch all of its students into a bright future. In the past this group has helped cancer victims and those who suffered from the Nashville floods in 2010. Creating a well-organized event that caters to the needs of children and families are their strength. We asked them for some tips and best practices as they plan this year’s event. Have something you’d like to share? Please do! Leave a comment and keep the conversation going.


What advice would you give to someone planning their first HP event?

First, find out who your team is going to be. Remember to make sure you have non-photographers on this team. I think it’s essential to be able to utilize the talents of multiple areas. Remember to be realistic–not all artsy people’s strengths are details. Make a list of people you know that can be your “go to.”

Second, find your location.  Once you have that, then you can have a starting point of what you are going to need, how many people, who your market is going to be, etc.

How do you find the best location?

We based it first on who would have the biggest spot for free.  We found that churches were the best locations we could find for free, but we unfortunately lost people who wouldn’t attend since it was at a church.  Many of the free large spots, like churches, aren’t as easy to access for those without cars.

Last year’s location at New Hope Academy was amazing.  People were not as intimidated since it wasn’t a church, but it still wasn’t the ideal location for people without transportation.  We are looking at doing multiple smaller events with a base location…kind of a satellite concept to go where the need is.

What are the most essential things for running a successful event?

Communication and plenty of volunteers. Always overstaff volunteers, no matter what size event you’re planning.


Do you have any recommendations for creating and maintaining your group-planning site?

Create events within the site, especially if it’s just photographers getting together.  Send as many reminders as you can…the day before, the day of and a few hours before.  You really can’t remind them too much.

How have you gone about collecting donations?

We’ve utilized connections our team has to local businesses and visited them in person to collect donations.

What organizations have you worked with, how did you connect with them and what has been your experience working with them?

Each year, this is something we talk about improving.  We have worked to get many organizations involved, but this is one of the weakest areas of our event.  We are all still figuring out how to get people inside these organizations to promote from within.  It basically comes down to the fact that most people don’t trust it’s actually free.  We’ve gone to these locations multiple times personally and handed out flyers.  This has been the most effective effort thus far, but not the most realistic.  In the future, we may staff volunteers to go to organizations we partner with and help spread the word.


How have you found hairstylists and makeup artists?

In our experience, this has been our weakest link:  They have been the hardest to confirm, or they confirm and don’t show up.  We had a fantastic team this year that was confirmed the two days prior to our event. We’ve kept in contact to maintain the relationship for future events.  In addition, we are collecting makeup during the year, so they don’t have to use their personal products.  We also enlist high school and college-aged girls with lots of tools and experience for hair and makeup.  We have also used salons and beauty schools from around the area.

Day of tips?

Get there early, get ready before you open the doors, get the team together and remind them that our purpose is to give value and to give respect.  Make sure you have at least 2-3 extra volunteers to spare to run errands and fill in wherever.  This allows person in charge to focus on the big picture and not be caught up in the small things.

Any tips for smooth and efficient flow?  

Indoor and outdoor signage is key.  Have people at each checkpoint to direct people as they come.  We also did a run through the night before with all of our volunteers.  It allowed us to create a list of people to have at each station and have floaters to fill needs as they arose.


What ideas do you have when it comes to hospitality for your guests?

We offer food after their photos are taken.  This allows us to connect with the families while they wait.  We also have water available.

We did a prize basket (a bin with small stuffed animals & little toys) for the kids to pick from when they finish for the day.  In addition, we did a coat drive and allowed people to pick out a coat at the end of the event.

Printing tips?

We have loved HiTi 510s printers. They are dye-sublimation type printers that use a three-color ribbon process that is transferred to the paper.

We also did our prints on flash drives from iPromo. They were our main cost, but were so much faster than trying to burn DVDs.


What items do you need on hand?

Make sure you have plenty of supplies ahead of time and delegate! Many people in our area are willing to help, especially financially.

Here are some examples of items to have:

  • Sharpies
  • Duct Tape
  • Name Tags
  • Pens
  • Baby wipes & tissues
  • Bottled waters
  • Snacks for workers
  • Hairspray
  • Q-tips & cotton pads
  • Mascaras
  • Extension cords & power strips
  • Tablecloths
  • Napkins & plates
  • Paper towels
  • Clorox wipes

Here are a few examples of features we couldn’t make it without:

Electrical Volunteer: He helps get all the right cords for photographers, lighting & hair/makeup. This is a huge need, and helps us not blow fuses.

Identical Setup: We set up every station identically, which allows for consistency.  All photographers also shot in the same format and lighting.

Designated Kid Area:  We used a TV/DVD player and played the movie Elf.  It was a huge hit!  Have at least 4 volunteers stationed here and don’t forget you teenagers are often great with kids.  When the parents know the kids are in a safe place, it allows them to enjoy being pampered.

Event Photographers: Make sure you designate 2-3 photographers to take candid shots of the day’s process.

Volunteer Appreciation: Everyone can’t be photographers that day, so it’s important to put value on each person’s role in this process.  Thank volunteers whenever they help doing whatever.

Right before ending setup, pull the entire group of volunteers together and thank them for coming, for their commitment to such a great cause.  Remind them that this day is not about what hat they are wearing, but what they are creating; who they will be influencing, changing, and touching.  This may be these people’s first experience of being on the receiving end of a selfless act.

Our goal is not for them to see who we are, but to feel Jesus through us.


Any final tips for us?

Keep music going in the background.  Make sure the photographers and hairstylists/makeup artists have what they need.  Follow up with the kids area, and keep the food going at all times!

Are you local and want to get involved? Join Help-Portrait Franklin on Facebook for details.