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New Ideas in Giving Back

Many people ask me how did Portraits of Giving get started? It began as a small idea that grew into something I didn't know it could evolve into at the time.

Over ten years ago, I kept meeting amazing people in our community as a photographer, who inspired me to the point where I wanted to start giving back and continue to do. I thought if they inspired me, how can I help them to inspire others? So the idea for the photography exhibit began in three towns: Richmond Hill, Aurora and Newmarket and kept growing over the past ten years to tour across all nine municipalities in York Region reaching over half a million people both online and in person.

We added knowledge sharing over social media, a speaker series, and more Honouree categories. We also found that the Exhibit opening receptions could raise money for local charities so Portraits of Giving also became an initiative about giving back that actually gives back. We have raised over $60,000 for local charities over the years. As a small business owner, that is something I am very proud of and could not do without support from my organizing and advisory committees over the years. I am grateful to have colleagues who also believe that it's important to give back. Here is a link to our 10th Anniversary Video of moments during the POG tours over the past ten years:

So what about you? What new ideas can you think of?

First I would suggest to think about what is important to you, what are your skills, and what do you enjoy doing? Can you engage your team to join you? Ask your team what are they interested in? See where those thoughts take you and do a pilot initiative on a small scale. If it catches on, let it grow.

I recently saw a group of employees from a bank who all love sports, volunteer together for a charitable event, and because they volunteered, their employer donated $1000 to that not for profit organization. I thought that was a fantastic idea - it not only helped their community but also engaged their employees on a completely different level, and you always feel good when you give back. Helping others has many benefits.

Plant a seed and watch it grow.

I've always wanted to do something to help animals, so if you know of a way I could help, please contact me at

Special thanks to Guest Blogger Karen Merk from Merk Photography

Karen Merk, LPPOC, PMP, is an award winning Photographer based in Richmond Hill, Ontario. Merk Photography serves York Region, and the Greater Toronto Area for the past ten years.

For many years, Karen has held her Project Management Professional designation that is the foundation of her skills to create new initiatives steeped in collaboration, like Portraits of Giving, to educate, celebrate and inspire her community. The annual Portraits of Giving exhibit allows Karen to celebrate the many people she has met along her adventures in photography and who provide a true source of inspiration.

Founder of Portraits of Giving


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