Author Archives: sandypucblog

Make sure your charitable contributions count!

Giving back is something that brings me great joy and fulfillment in my life. It’s nice to know where the money you donate goes. One of my favorite websites is They are one of the largest independent charity rating services in the nation, providing a reliable and secure way to review and donate to your favorite charities. Here’s a great article about making sure your donations count.


Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors

  1. Be Proactive In Your Giving 
    Smart givers generally don’t give reactively in a knee-jerk fashion. They don’t respond to the first organization that appeals for help. They take the time to identify which causes are most important to their families and they are specific about the change they want to affect. For example, they don’t just support generic cancer charities, but instead have targeted goals for their giving, such as providing mammograms to at-risk women in their community.
  2. Hang Up The Phone / Eliminate The Middleman
    Informed donors recognize that for-profit fundraisers, those often used in charitable telemarketing campaigns, keep 25 to 95 cents of every dollar they collect. Wise donors never give out their personal information – like credit card accounts, social security numbers – over the phone. If they like what they hear in the pitch, they’ll hang up, investigate the charity on-line and send their contribution directly to the charity, thereby cutting out the middleman and ensuring 100% of their donation reaches the charity. To help you investigate charities that solicit you, we include each charity’s contact information on its ratings page.
  3. Be Careful Of Sound-Alike Names
    Uninformed donors are easily confused by charities that have strikingly similar names to others. How many of us could tell the difference between an appeal from the Children’s Charity Fund and the Children’s Defense Fund? Their names sound the same, but their performances are vastly different. Would you be surprised to learn that the Children’s Charity Fund is a 0-star charity while the Children’s Defense Fund is a 3-star charity? Informed donors take the time to uncover the difference.
  4. Confirm 501(c) (3) Status
    Wise donors don’t drop money into canisters at the checkout counter or hand over cash to solicitors outside the supermarket. Situations like these are irresistible to scam artists who wish to take advantage of your goodwill. Smart givers only support groups granted tax-exempt status under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All of the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator meet this basic requirement.
  5. 5. Check The Charity’s Commitment To Accountability & Transparency
    In 2011, Charity Navigator added an Accountability & Transparency dimension to its rating system. It tracks metrics such as whether the charity used an objective process to determine their CEO’s salary, whether it has an effective governance structure, and whether it has a whistleblower policy. This data is critical because charities that follow good governance and transparency practices are less likely to engage in unethical or irresponsible activities. So, the risk that such charities would misuse donations is lower than for charities that don’t adopt such practices.
  6. Obtain Copies Of Its Financial Records
    Savvy donors know that the financial health of a charity is a strong indicator of the charity’s programmatic performance. They know that in most cause areas, the most efficient charities spend 75% or more of their budget on their programs and services and less than 25% on fundraising and administrative fees. However, they also understand that mid-to-large sized charities do require a strong infrastructure therefore a claim of zero fundraising and/or administrative fees is unlikely at best. They understand that a charity’s ability to sustain its programs over time is just as important as its short-term day-to-day spending practices. Therefore, savvy donors also seek out charities that are able to grow their revenue at least at the rate of inflation, that continue to invest in their programs and that have some money saved for a rainy day. All of this analysis is provided on Charity Navigator’s website for free, but when considering groups not found here, savvy donors ask the charity for copies of its three most recent Forms 990. Not only can the donor examine the charity’s finances, but the charity’s willingness to send the documents is a good way to assess its commitment to transparency.
  7. Review Executive Compensation
    Sophisticated donors realize that charities need to pay their top leaders a competitive salary in order to attract and retain the kind of talent needed to run a multi-million dollar organization and produce results. But they also don’t just take the CEO’s compensation at face value; they benchmark it against similar-sized organizations engaged in similar work and located in the same region of the country. To help you make your own decision, Charity Navigator reveals that the average CEO’s compensation of the charities we evaluate is almost $150,000. In general, salaries tend to be higher in the northeast and at arts and education charities. Sophisticated donors also put the CEO’s salary into context by examining the overall performance of the organization. They know it is better to contribute to a charity with a well-paid CEO that is meeting its goals than to support a charity with an underpaid CEO that fails to deliver on its promises.
  8. Start A Dialogue To Investigate Its Programmatic Results
    Although it takes some effort on their part to assess a charity’s programmatic impact, donors who are committed to advancing real change believe that it is worth their time. Before they make a contribution, they talk with the charity to learn about its accomplishments, goals and challenges. These donors are prepared to walk away from any charity that is unable or unwilling to participate in this type of conversation.
  9. Concentrate Your Giving
    When it comes to financial investments, diversification is the key to reducing risk. The opposite is true for philanthropic investments. If you’ve really taken the time to identify a well-run charity that is engaged in a cause that you are passionate about, you should then feel confident in giving it a donation. Spreading your money among multiple organizations not only results in your mail box filling up with more appeals, it also diminishes the possibility of any of those groups bringing about substantive change as each charity is wasting a percentage of your gift on processing expenses for that gift.
  10. Share Your Intentions And Make A Long-Term Commitment
    Smart donors support their favorite charities for the long haul. They see themselves as a partner in the charity’s efforts to bring about change. They know that only with long-term, committed supporters can a charity be successful. And they don’t hesitate to tell the charity of their giving plans so that the organization knows it can rely on the donor and the charity doesn’t have to waste resources and harass the donor by sending numerous solicitations.

Attn: NILMDTS Photographers

I am excited to share a new project with you. NILMDTS Area Coordinator Angie Thompson brought the idea of holiday portraits to our attention. Thanks, Angie!

Angie is planning to visit a hospital later this month and provide complimentary holiday portraits of babies in the NICU with the help of a real Santa. You could also use a handmade Santa glove and sleeve to create the same effect.

If you’re interested in participating in this optional holiday project, please let area coordinators contact the hospitals to discuss times and dates. Once the times and dates are approved, work with your network to schedule several photographers to attend these sessions. We are representing NILMDTS and it would be great to share the work load and make sure all families are served.

Please contact Mindy Tappan at our headquarters office if you plan to take holiday portraits. She will send out a press release to media outlets in your area. We would love to make this an annual event, and could use the media coverage to promote it.

The Santa glove and sleeve is optional, as is providing a real Santa. Please use your discretion as there will be patients of many different faiths. Our goal is to provide a few images of each baby that will be spending his/her first holiday season in the hospital. We have instructions on how to make your own Santa glove and sleeve if you are interested.

These holiday portraits should be offered to all babies, not just the ones that are terminally ill. Be sure to check with the hospital and get an idea of how many families would like their baby photographed. Our goal is to provide 2-4 images of the child/family that can be e-mailed to the family. We will provide a special consent form for this project. Please be sure to get it filled out and signed.

This project will require quick sessions and quick turnaround. Please take 5-10 images and move on to the next child. We cannot take too much time or disrupt the child’s hospital routine. Our goal is next day delivery, but at this busy time of year, please have the images to the families within 2-4 days.

Thank you for your continued support of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep and this new pilot project. This is a wonderful way to create positive awareness for the work we do. These portraits will be meaningful to families who are spending the holidays with their loved ones in the hospital.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact Mindy Tappan at

With warm regards,
Sandy Puc’

Canon Asia

I had an amazing experience shooting the  official commercial for Canon Asia last fall. Here is the behind the scenes footage. The commercial will air in 10 countries throughout Asia. A big thanks to Canon Asia and your amazing team. A great life memory!

[vimeo w=500&h=325]

Canon EOS System. Behind the Scenes: Featuring Sandy Puc’ from Sandy Puc on Vimeo.

Here is the official Commercial

Seven Pounds Interview – NILMDTS

An Interview with Sandy Puc’

The president and co-founder of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep on the healing power of photography

In 2005, photographer Sandy Puc’ co-founded the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation(NILMDTS) with Cheryl Haggard. NILMDTS administers a network of thousands of volunteer photographers around the world who conduct free hospital and hospice portrait sessions of families who have just lost a baby. I spoke with Sandy about the organization and its mission.

photography, babies, lossLiz: How did you get the idea for the Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Foundation?
Sandy: My work was on display at the local hospital, mainly art-type portraits of parents and children. One day I received a phone call from a family I didn’t know. They had just found out that their son had a condition incompatible with life, and they had seen my work. They wanted me to create portraits for them like the ones they had seen. Their son was being taken off life support later that evening. I really hadn’t done anything like that before. But through that session, I became very close with little Maddux’s mother, Cheryl Haggard. We realized how many babies pass away on a daily basis in this country. Most of the families go to the hospital thinking they are going to have a healthy baby; they don’t expect it to happen. There is such shock that they don’t think of things like taking pictures, capturing memories.

Liz: Can you describe your services?
Sandy: Our volunteer photographers go to the hospital and do a full portrait session. Most opt for black and white due to the condition of the child, but otherwise it is just like a beautiful portrait session we would do in a high-end studio.  Our photographers go home, do image editing, and provide the family with a disc of photos at no charge. The average volunteer spends about ten hours of work on one family.

Liz: What is the experience of the photography session like?
Sandy: When the photographer goes in, they are required to sign off on hospital paperwork, as a legality issue for safety and health. They introduce themselves as a representative of NILMDS, and are efficient, quick, quiet, and very respectful. They explain to families what they’re going to do. We give them options for photographs: the baby alone, Mom and Dad with baby, Mom and baby, Dad and baby; if there are other family members, grandparents, siblings. We do recommend that they hold their children; sometimes they are in shock, but we know how valuable it can be later. We also know the baby’s time is short, or has passed, and we want to make sure they get as many images as they can. This is a one-shot deal. Once the session is over, the baby will usually be taken to the morgue.

We focus on the memorable parts of the baby: eyes, toes, ears, little hands. We want the parents to have a record of the baby. These are the things they struggle with the most because they’re in so much shock. It helps to remember those little details. They’ll have it forever.

For the parent, that baby is real. This happened. So we can just give them the opportunity to show that and say, this is my child.

Liz: What do you hear from families who have utilized your services? Does it help to facilitate their healing process?
Sandy: There’s such a range. Everyone handles pain differently. Some families are desperate to see the images right away, while some families, three or four years later, have not looked at the images because they aren’t emotionally ready to do so. It really depends on the person. There are parents who tell me they look at the images every day. Some put them on display, on their desk at work. They want people to ask about their child. Unfortunately, a lot of people are misinformed: they tell grieving parents things like “forget it” or “thank heavens you have another.” Things like that are very painful. For the parent, that baby is real. This happened. So we can just give them the opportunity to show that and say, this is my child. That’s what we hear the most.

Liz: Finally, what words of advice can you offer to our SevenPonds readers who may be dealing with grief or the loss of a child?
Sandy: There are so many resources for healing. For parents who have lost a child, the biggest thing is capturing memories. It’s important to keep the memory alive and keep a tribute to the baby, such as with birthday remembrances. We also want to help people understand that it’s okay to talk about that lost child. We want other people to be comfortable with that conversation. Some of our families have the hardest time because people don’t know how to react when a baby passes away. Be forgiving of people, but also help to educate people.

Liz: Thank you so much for sharing with us!

Visit Seven Pounds

To learn more about Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep visit:

Now I Lay Me Down to

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time of year. Everyone gets the opportunity to take a moment and reflect on all of the joys and smiles they have experienced throughout the year. Here at Sandy Puc’ Portrait Design, we are so grateful for all we have.  We are grateful for our clients, for what they have given us and for the growth of our studio over the years. It’s hard to believe that I started in Colorado 19 years ago and have so many clients that have shared every memory with me from the beginning.

I wanted to share one of those clients with you, one that I am grateful to have been a part of their family’s adventures and growth over the years.

Family PhotoThe Cressman’s presented me with a beautiful album that showcases every image they’ve ever had taken with me. Beginning in my home, all of their holiday cards and up to present day. I was so moved by this sentimental gesture that it brought me to tears. To be able to see their children growing over all of these years and to know that our studio has played such an important part in capturing those memories is an amazing privilege in my eyes. To know that a client felt so strongly to actually take the time to make that album was breathtaking.  For many of us who have been around the studio for a long time, it left us with tears of happiness and gratitude.

We want to thank everyone, whether you are a new client or have been with us since I was working out of my home. We are so grateful that you have been with us throughout the years.

Warm Wishes and Happy Thanksgiving!


Welcome to the Inferno!

After a fun weekend in Nashville, I am back from the No BS Inferno Workshop! It was a wonderful production by Rob Provencher from No BS, as well as Kerry Allan from the Photography Schoolhouse. I had a blast at the event and absolutely loved the energy of our intimate group. We had the privilege of hearing from some great speakers and I also had a wonderful time speaking at the event!No BS Photo Success Inferno Workshop

We had some great times after hours with all of our friends too! What would a trip to Nashville be without a visit to Jack’s BBQ? I made sure we had time to savor some delicious barbeque! After our tummies were full, we spent the rest of the evening at a piano bar, hanging out with good friends and having a grand old time! I even got to celebrate my birthday a little bit. They sang Happy Birthday to all of the November birthday people and of course it made me blush.

Jack's BBQ Nashville

All in all, it was a spectacular trip! Big thanks to Rob and Kerry for all of their amazing work and for the wonderful people they are.

November is National Child Safety and Protection Month!

Take a minute to teach your children these simple yet essential safety tips!

Learn how to deal with strangers on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website.

911 Safety
Talk about when to call 911 with these tips on

Rules for the Road
Visit where you will find lots of fun and interactive ways to learn about safety on the road—from buckling your seat belt in the car and wearing a helmet on your bike to safety tips on crossing the street.

Tips on Bullying
Learn responsible ways to handle bullying at

Even a few minutes reviewing these safety measures can make a big difference. Help your little ones stay safe!