4 no-nos and 5 must-dos for for great fundraising photos

The right photo can propel you to fundraising success. It can say more, more powerfully than the best-written copy ever could.

But that same power can sink your fundraising. All that power — pushing in the wrong direction — can make sure your fundraising doesn’t work as it should.

One of the most important ways to improve your choice of photos is to remember this: A photo is not a decoration. It is a story.

Here are some ways to tell if your photos are rectangles of color rather than stories:

  1. Too small. The best photo in the world loses some or all of its power if the viewer can’t quite see it.
  2. Too many. A row of five similar photos, even very good photos, waters down the story. Use one photo at a time to make sure it gets the attention and focus it deserves.
  3. Too abstract. Always ask yourself: “Will a non-expert who’s thinking about other things be able to tell what’s happening in this photo? If the answer is not a big YES, look for a different photo
  4. No caption. Always caption photos. That not only increases the story-ness of it, but it’s a key entry point to the larger message you want people to read.

When it’s clear your photos aren’t mere decorations, the next step is make sure they’re telling the right story in the right way. That usually means a few things:

  1. The main subject is people. Faces (human and otherwise) are automatically interesting. They always attract viewers and some level of engagement.
  2. There is eye contact. The one way to make a face even more compelling is eye contact with the viewer.
  3. The facial expressions don’t detract from the story. It’s so common that there’s a photo that is meant to be of someone we want donors to help … but the expression that person is making seems to say “Everything is great for me.” Viewers are going to believe what they see in the photo more than what you’re hoping to make then believe with your words.
  4. The context/background adds to the story. Sometimes what’s behind and around the people in a photo is key to the story of the photo. Other times, it’s just noise. Pay close attention to the difference!
  5. The story the photo tells is the same story the words tell. As with the facial expressions, the overall sense of what seems to be happening in the photo must be the same as what we’re telling donors. This can be a challenge when we have “the curse of knowledge” about the photo — when we “know” what’s happening, even though most people would get a very different idea.

Have a question about your fundraising photos — or anything else? Let’s talk! Click here to schedule a free 25 minute session with me. Bring your fundraising challenge or question and let’s make it great!


Comments

2 responses to “4 no-nos and 5 must-dos for for great fundraising photos”

  1. Thank you for this awesome post. It’s very informative. I totally with all of it especially this – “The main subject is people”. Fundraising is for the people so they should be the main subject.

  2. Thank you for this awesome post. It’s very informative. I totally with all of it especially this – “The main subject is people”. Fundraising is for the people so they should be the main subject.

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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.