Non-profit organizations sometimes approach me asking for a donation of my commercial photography services. I often say yes, but I do have a structured approach. Here are the main points to consider...
1. Charities operate with very limited budgets. Volunteers and donations are what help these organizations maximize the use of the funds for the people they help. Adding commercial photography greatly increases the organizations brand, market presence, and advertising. Additionally, it helps in their internal communications and community relations. I try to align myself with projects that match my personal values. Sometimes it is ok to say no. Try to refer someone else if you are not available.
2. ROI - Return on investment. In this case, time. Through the organizations I work with I have meet numerous people I would not regularly have access to. Business leaders, other professionals, politicians, celebrities, and so forth. The amount of business generated from these contacts is often substantial. Additionally, increased visibility for my brand comes from on site branding at events, publication of my logo in printed communications, local and national media coverage, photo credits, publication in the annual report, etc, etc, etc. You get the point. The returns are often much larger than the donation.
3. It feels good. Taking a positive, active role in your community is hugely rewarding. Giving of your time and of your expertise can greatly enhance the lives of others. Working alongside like minded individuals creates a silent bond that follows you all year as you interact with your community. I highly recommend getting involved.
Personally, I try to be involved at least once per quarter with a non profit organization. I work with charities that help underprivileged children (something close to my heart), with the Canadian Cancer Society, and with foundations that ease the transit from life to death. What ever you choose, getting involved can have a huge impact on both the organization, and yourself.