This past week Mosaic compatriot David Svet and I were working on the Pinterest module in the Fundraising with Social Media series. As we were reviewing questions people in our test group had asked during the session, I found one of the questions that was asked in several different ways dealt with how to use images around vulnerable and sensitive subjects. People wanted to know if Pinterest was not a good match for their cause if they felt stock photos did not convey enough information.

tell your nonprofit storyAt the heart of this question is how to use images to tell your nonprofit story. Storytelling is the most powerful process we have to inspire support.  David and I both work with causes that serve victims of domestic violence, so understanding the dangers of using images to tell a story is something that we recognize as applicable to many causes. Whether you are dealing with privacy concerns, needs for anonymity, or graphic and disturbing situations, how you use images and to what end requires some strategic thought.

Visuals work so well for communication because they bypass the ‘logical’ and ‘language’ parts of our brain. Visuals don’t need to be translated to be received or understood to have impact. Images are powerful and can transcend our limitations. We can “get the point” of an image instantaneously that would otherwise take a good several paragraphs to read or listen to a 5-minute presentation. Who has time for that today?

Which is why we really focus on the strategies behind your images in the Fundraising with Social Media series. We’ve laid out the best ways you can use images to motivate people to take action and support your cause not only by using Pinterest, but across the social media spectrum. Sign up here for more fabulous fundraising with social media information.

In our age of immediacy, we need to be able to connect quickly.

tell your nonprofit storyWhat if you could use images to create a mood, inspire an emotion, tap a feeling? Can visual story telling go beyond a literal representation of your cause? Does using visuals have an application broader than illustration? Could you identify what emotion you wanted to convey or inspire in your viewer (outrage, hope, oppression, promise, despair, joy) that supports your cause’s message and then select images that provide that emotional connection?

When faced with a sensitive situation, one avenue to consider is using non-literal images. Abstracts can use color and movement to inspire a mood. Silhouettes and close-ups can maintain anonymity and inspire and emotion. Tight-in images, such as two hands holding or bare feet, can illustrate a point. A photograph of graffiti on a wall can convey a message about community.

When we encounter a story, we are taken on an emotional journey.

tell your nonprofit story

What image would you choose that conveys the desperate isolation that comes with a disfiguring disease? What picture would you use to let your viewer feel the hope of starting a new life? How would you combine images that move your viewer through your cause’s story emotionally and inspires them to take action?

Pinterest is turning into one of the most powerful community building communications tool because it is centered on sharing images. However, it is not the only place we use visuals to tell our story and represent the causes that are important to us. In order to keep our causes relevant and connected today, consider the truth behind the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

So… which thousand words will you condense

into an image that tells your story? tell your nonprofit story

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10 comments
Deirdre Maloney
Deirdre Maloney

Great points! We all know how the right image can stir emotions in us that cause us to act right in the moment…much more often than words ever could! I also think it’s smart to go abstract when the moment is right. Literal images have a place, but so do other types. We just have to figure out when to use what!

Hanna Cooper
Hanna Cooper

Heidi, these are great suggestions overall for helping to choose meaningful images to tell our stories. Thanks for the tips!

Natasha
Natasha

Sometimes there are no words to send the same message as a picture. I'm really of the belief that less is most often better than more. Great reminder to use more visuals in my marketing!

Marchel Peterson
Marchel Peterson

I just took a training class on using Pinterest for real estate. It made my creative juices flow and I can also see how it can be used for non-profits.

Chris Ford
Chris Ford

I tend to search for generic stock images for blog posts, unless I create my own photography. I typically search on the emotion I want to convey, like "surprised winner"... and I agree with lynndeanne - definitely try to stay away from those overused, very tired, overly "motivational" affirmation-type photos!

lynndeanne
lynndeanne

Avoiding overused photo metaphors is important, too. It's always a challenge.

harold gardner
harold gardner

Life Magazine photo of the soldier kissing the girl in a white dress

Heidi Hancock
Heidi Hancock

Searching on the emotion is a great way to find images... and keep the emotional "scape" of the piece in focus.

Heidi Hancock
Heidi Hancock

Sometimes searching for alternatives to the cliched can tax your creativity. What do you do when you're stuck in a cliche rut?