How to get the right photo for fundraising

Photos can make all the difference in fundraising. They can capture the essence of your cause with a depth and immediacy you just can’t match with words.

Unfortunately, a photo can also torpedo your intended message when it’s wrong. How often have you seen a message about hunger accompanied by a photo of plump, smiling children? The photo speaks louder than the words: Everyone is well-fed and happy.

Another popular but destructive photo is the Giant Check Handoff: A well-heeled donor hands a six-foot long check for a huge amount to a grinning executive director. The message is two-fold and clear: Your tiny check hardly matters compared to the Big Boys. plus We don’t do anything interesting.

The Butterfly Effect blog has some good advice for nonprofit photography at No giant checks, please:

If you can’t hire a pro, your best alternative is brute force: take a lot of photos all the time. Enlist your staff, your volunteers, even your program participants as photographers.

Even total amateurs will get a great shot now and then, but you can get luckier by copying the professionals: get up close, shoot from a variety of angles, and avoid harsh flash lighting.

We all love the crisp, well-composed work of professional photographers, but some of the most effective photos I’ve ever worked with were taken by amateurs. Because they were in the right place at the right time and didn’t muck it up.

Brute force. Go for it.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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