2 photos, and how they’re poised to influence donors

A picture is worth a thousand words.

So when it’s visible alongside 30 or so actual words — as in this Facebook post from Feeding America — do you think the photo might dominate? Just a little?

Happyhungrychild

Okay, that’s a silly question.

Because you know the answer: The photo speaks much, much “louder” than the words. Even a thousand words crafted by the best fundraising writer in the world have a pale shadow of engagement power when compared to a photo.

So why did they choose a photo that tells a story that’s the exact opposite of the words?

Whatever the reason, it was likely an expensive choice.

Even though the words tell us about “the ache of hunger,” there’s no sense of ache in the photo. We just see a happy kid. Which is nice, but doesn’t as clearly call for action.

Compare the photo to this one that was in an email from Mercy Corps:

Mercycorps sad kids

This words and the photo are completely aligned here.

Note that the photo is not gory and awful. But it doesn’t give you a warm and fuzzy feeling. Not even close. It shows strong emotion that’s entirely appropriate to the situation.

Which is what fundraising is about.

Negative photos can bother and upset us. So much so that many fundraisers vow never to use them.

You can raise money with happy photos.

But seldom as much as with “negative” photos.

Are you serious about raising money for your cause? Seek the more difficult images.

(This post first appeared on March 9, 2018.)


Comments

2 responses to “2 photos, and how they’re poised to influence donors”

  1. While I understand the fundamentals of your point here about alignment of images and words, AND the impact of “negative” photos — or photos that are more real, authentically depicting the challenges — there remains an ethical question in my mind about exploiting the pain and suffering of real people. There is a nuanced balance that is supremely important to consider. I’ve seen a lot of well meaning fundraisers attempting to do what you are suggesting only to find themselves sliding into the “white savior” territory.

  2. While I understand the fundamentals of your point here about alignment of images and words, AND the impact of “negative” photos — or photos that are more real, authentically depicting the challenges — there remains an ethical question in my mind about exploiting the pain and suffering of real people. There is a nuanced balance that is supremely important to consider. I’ve seen a lot of well meaning fundraisers attempting to do what you are suggesting only to find themselves sliding into the “white savior” territory.

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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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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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