Delaney Canfield - Co-Founder and Managing Director at Shape Cleveland
As Co-Founder and Managing Director of one of the most unique non-profit organizations in Cleveland, Delaney Canfield serves as the perfect example of our city's best qualities. Beginning with her passion for photography and videography, Delaney has continued to build upon her skills to benefit those around her. When she speaks about her passions, you truly feel her desire to pay it forward and pass on her knowledge to others. Although she never imagined herself in the non-profit space, Delaney’s passion, drive, and creativity are the perfect fit for an organization that aims to provide education and experience to young professionals. Her hard work since day one has helped to make Shape Cleveland the impactful and successful non-profit that it is today.
As a college student at Cleveland State University, Delaney was pursuing a degree in film when she made the switch to non-profit administration after formulating the idea that would later become Shape. Alongside her Co-Founder and Executive Director, Patrick Fenner, Delaney has built an incredible organization with the mission of inspiring the next generation of visual artists (or storytellers) through hands-on educational opportunities. The 501(c)(3) Non-Profit was designed to be a professional photography & film studio that is rooted in education. In addition to taking on clients like other studios, Shape also works with students ranging from late high school to early college graduates in order to provide them with the experience they need to build their skills and enter the industry. “It allows them to be in a space where they can be on an active set, shooting video content for a client and asking questions alongside our professionals. They can really get that hands-on work and get comfortable with being a part of this community because it can be really intimidating to get started in the industry.”
Delaney always had a passion for photography and film. Doing freelance work at the time led her to connect with others and discover the job opportunities that could be available in the non-profit space. Seeing the opportunities that the community presented, she and her partner jumped at the chance to create something that could fill the void in photo and film education. Helping students gain the experience and skills to enter the industry with confidence and connections is the driving force behind Shape and Delaney’s work.
In the photography and film industry, it is easy to come across projects that simultaneously inspire creativity and have meaningful impacts. Especially when the non-profit aspect comes into play, many partnerships of Delaney’s have been incredibly moving and purposeful. We asked her about her favorite projects that Shape has tackled so far, she shared that of their most recent work, a video project with Land Studio and the Cleveland Public Library to capture the process of the ‘Archive’ exhibit has been most exciting. Delaney and the Shape team captured the entire floral installation process. From beginning to end, they followed artist Rebecca Louise Law in the execution of the exhibit. Delaney shared, “We got to film really creatively. This gave us the space to be creative in what we were doing and see something have a complete well-rounded story. So that was really special.”
One of the greatest things about being in the philanthropy world is that the things you love doing can often come with incredible impact. A perfect example of this was another project of Shape’s that Delaney considers a favorite of hers. For several years in a row, Shape created video content for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society for an annual fundraising campaign. Capturing the stories of those impacted by Leukemia or Lymphoma proves that sometimes the “best” work can come when it challenges people emotionally, not just creatively. Delaney said, “To be in the room when those videos played for their families was really special, and then to see the immediate impact of how much money the organization raised as a result of playing that video was very special. It gave us a chance to really see that the work we are doing is really making a difference to other non-profits.”
Beyond Shape and the non-profit world, Delaney continues to show off her photography talents as a concert photographer and reviewer for CleveRock.com. She has already captured several live events this year ranging from shows at Playhouse Square all the way to the Taylor Swift Era’s Tour in Pittsburgh. When you are as passionate as Delaney is about photography and film, it is easy to make it a part of your hobbies and free time as well. As Delaney joked, “My hobby is just doing the work I do at Shape but in a more casual, fun way.” Being a true Cleveland lover, she also shared with us how she spends her Summers in the city, “I will spend as much time as possible outdoors. Just sitting outside and taking advantage of all of the wonderful things Cleveland has to offer.”
As with all professions, the non-profit space is not without its challenges, especially for a woman in charge. Delaney shared some of her struggles with imposter syndrome, particularly when it came to the beginning of her career. “I was a very young woman entering the space and I think it was often that people were unsure that I was the person in charge and didn’t know I was the one making decisions behind the scenes. I think it was hard for me to even take myself seriously.“, she said. As she was only 21 when the Shape was coming to fruition, there was so much more for Delaney to learn, not only when it came to running a non-profit but also to finishing her degree.
For a Co-Founder of an organization like Shape, meeting people and connecting is a huge part of the day-to-day operations and ultimately encouraged Delaney to move beyond her initial feelings of doubt as the non-profit began to grow. “As we grew and gained more credibility and I gained more confidence, that became very pivotal in Shapes growth as well. Me really coming into the space and recognizing what my place was,” she shared. Delaney also highlighted how working in the non-profit sector can be different from other professional networks in that the leaders of the organizations often reflect the diverse communities they are representing. This is in contrast with the film and photography space, where it can be harder to find diversity and representation.
With one foot in each of these communities, Delaney shared, “It was very strange to feel myself starting to come into my own in the non-profit world where it is a little more common to see women like me when on the flip side, I would enter a film community where I was one of three women in a room of 100 people.” She went on to express her gratitude that after her time growing the organization, she is now able to create those spaces for others and be sure that those rooms are more inclusive.
We talked with Delaney about how common it is that the individuals that start non-profits are often doing so to prevent or guide other people through something they themselves have experienced. Paying it forward and passing on knowledge are two of the biggest things that come along with both starting an organization and deciding to become a non-profit. This perfectly led to our final point, how networking and connecting can help promote growth, both professionally and personally. She talked about how word of mouth has surprisingly played a huge role in the growth of Shape and how good work is often recognized and appreciated enough to pass on as a recommendation.
She credits a lot of the organization's success to not only the hard work and talents of the Shape team but also to the support of the Cleveland community. “There are people who are willing to support so many different types of things. It's so much more than competition, it's so collaborative. People are so open-minded if you are coming at it with the right approach in a mutually beneficial way”, Delaney shared. This is a sentiment we can attest to as well and have seen it first-hand. Following in the footsteps of others, having someone to ask your questions to, and receiving encouragement from like-minded individuals are just some of the benefits of having a supportive and collaborative community like the one we have in our city.
Delaney is a talented photographer & videographer, a lifelong lover of Cleveland, and a dedicated leader of her organization. In all ways, she is kind, creative, and selfless. With her passion for both the photo and film industries, she is not only paving the way for others to follow in her footsteps but is actively holding their hands as they begin their professional journeys. Beyond her incredible kindness running the photobooths at our events, Delaney and the entire Shape team have shown up for us in the non-profit space, time and time again, the way that Cleveland-ers always do. We are so lucky to call Delaney a role model, confidant, and friend who is truly the perfect example of all that is wonderful about the woman-owned, non-profit, local, & creative communities.