How Industry Folks Can Give Back

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Have you ever noticed that well-known actors and other celebrities are often involved in charities? By lending their names and their faces, they’re able to raise the awareness of that particular cause, thereby giving the organization higher visibility and more exposure.

You don’t have to be an a-list actor in order to help a nonprofit, and you don’t have to make a financial contribution. By definition, a nonprofit tends to be member-serving or community-serving, and uses its revenues to achieve its mission. Many organizations have very few paid staff, and even executives might work for nominal compensation, which means they rely on the kindness of their members to volunteer their time or expertise to assist with everything from the day-to-day tasks of phone calls and filing to bigger tasks like grant writing and planning large fundraisers.

In Los Angeles, like many larger cities, we have the option of being able to give our time to organizations that are industry related. The Entertainment Industries Council provides information, awareness, and understanding of major health and social issues among the entertainment industry and to audiences at large. Additionally, Women in Film, Sundance Institute, and the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences are all fairly large organizations. Alternatively, there are also many smaller organizations that could always use assistance. For example, WriteGirl pairs professional women writers with at-risk teen girls for one-on-one weekly mentorship and monthly workshops based on different writing genres. I have had the great privilege of volunteering with WriteGirl for many years, both as Silent Auction Chair, and as a mentor to a teen girl. The experience continues to be highly gratifying.

Do you have experience with grant writing? Chances are, there’s a nonprofit that needs you. Don’t mind cold-calling retail businesses and asking for an in-kind donation (a contribution of goods or services)? You’re probably a good fit for the silent auction team. Perhaps you’ve done some teaching, and putting together a curriculum is easy for you. Or maybe you’re highly organized and are good at multi-tasking; the events team could probably use your help. Specific skills can certainly be valuable in the needs of a nonprofit, but sometimes just being there to greet a guest at an event is helpful to the organization. Participation is vital, and it’s what keeps the engine running and the doors open.

If industry-related nonprofits aren’t for you, there are many other worthy organizations that provide much needed help in other areas: education, assistance for the homeless, protection of animals, human rights, care for the elderly, etc. Find a cause you’re passionate about and give your time and support. The organization will be grateful, and you’ll feel good about giving back. Everybody wins.

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Retta Putignano
Retta Putignano is partner and head writer of Create Your Reel (CYR), the Los Angeles-based demo reel production company that writes, shoots, and edits custom footage for actor demo reels. etta is also an actor, producer, and graduate of the Second City Chicago Conservatory. She has appeared in more than 20 short films and three features.
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