Fri, November 14 2014

4 Rules for Images that Inspire Action

Caryn Stein's avatar

VP, Communications and Content, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

PhotoPhilanthropy is an amazing organization that brings together photographers and nonprofits to tell stories that drive action for social change. They believe in the power of images to inspire action. The folks at PhotoPhilanthropy are seeking entries for their Activist Awards, which honor outstanding work by photographers in collaboration with nonprofit organizations worldwide. Are you working with a photographer that deserves recognition? Encourage them to enter. Submissions are now open through December 3, 2014.

Wondering where to begin when it comes to using social documentary photography to tell the story of your mission? PhotoPhilanthropy’s Nathan Dalton shared these tips for nonprofits on how to use photographs to make an impact:

1. Use powerful, high-quality images.

What we see has a profound effect on what we do, how we feel, and who we are. The images your organization chooses must not only have solid composition and be artistically strong, but they should also be informative and educational to provoke the interest of your audience.

Photographs have the power to elicit emotions and evoke empathy by letting us in to another person’s experience.

This is a photograph by Adam Nadel of an African woman grieving the loss of her child to malaria.

We are drawn in by the beauty of this image, but the photographer has also captured something else much more elusive: an intimacy with her grief that transcends culture and nurtures compassion.


American documentary photographer Stephen Wilkes believes that a still image can “burn” into our minds and that “things (don’t) stay with us unless we have the image.”

In his own work, he talks about a subtext beneath his photographs: “The power of what’s underneath is much greater than what’s on the surface…. I want you to go underneath what I’m showing you, but the only way I can get there is to draw you in with beauty.”

2. Edit for impact.

Beautiful images are essential, but they can’t stand alone. It is crucial to edit your visual story for impact.

Effective curating and editing turns compelling images into powerful narrative vignettes. A well-curated and edited photo story has the potential to expand a viewer’s field of vision and to create meaningful and sustained impact.

Photo essays should focus on a central theme, such as we see here in select images from Inge Kathleen’s Activist Award winning photo essay, “90 Days” about a family of Burmese refugees who have just arrived in the United States.

Only include photos that are relevant to and strengthen the theme. Create a dynamic sequence of images that take into account context, order, variety and range. It may follow an individual or activity over a period of time.

3. Make it Human.

Like the previous photo by Adam Nadel, select images that elicit an empathic response in your audience.

Avoid negative campaigning. People are more likely to be moved to act by images that offer hope for positive change, rather than images designed to shock, shame, or guilt them into support.

Jerry Sternin of Save the Children says to “look for ‘bright spots’ already happening in your community—find out what is getting supporters actively engaged with the cause that you serve. Then, build your campaign around that.”

4. Move beyond illustration.

Compelling imagery is not always enough. Images, like a quote, need context to be understood or the audience may not comprehend the story behind the image. Audiences should not have to dig for the story. Select your text carefully as they affect the meaning and interpretation of your story.

Photo by Zishaan Akbar Latif on behalf of Ambuja Cement Foundation

How are you using photos to help tell a compelling story about your work? Share your examples in the comments below, and don’t forget to check out PhotoPhilanthropy’s Activist Awards.

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Wed, November 05 2014

Why Donors Want to Help One Person but Not Every Person

Liz Ragland's avatar

Marketing Content Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials • Marketing essentials •

An NPR story caught my attention this morning. Maybe you heard it too? The story was about a psychologist’s study on what kind of message inspires people to give more.

According to psychologist Paul Slovic’s research about how the head and heart can influence how much people want to give to support a cause, your message is more compelling when you tell the story of one and stick to how a donor’s investment can help that one person, not many.

In Slovic’s study, volunteers heard a story about a young girl suffering from starvation. The researchers then stepped into the fundraiser’s role and made an ask. They measured how much this group was willing to donate to help this girl. Next, a second group of volunteers heard the same story about the little girl and were told some overwhelming statistics about starvation. The same story + stats on what the issue looks like overall. Are you surprised to learn that the second group gave only about half of what the first group gave? I’m not surprised, and here are three reasons why:

  1. Donors want to feel happy and hopeful when they give. Hearing a story and framing an ask to help on a small scale is the way to go.   Here’s an example:

  Message 1: “Thousands of veterans need our help transitioning back to civilian life. Please give now!” = Overwhelming. My donation won’t even make a dent.

  Message 2: “A $20 monthly gift will make sure a veteran gets the job training she needs.” = My donation can actually help!

  2. People get too caught up in the numbers. Annual reports with numbers are necessary, I know, but don’t get carried away! Tell the whole story, but highlight statistics that show how your work really made a difference instead of focusing on all the work yet to be done.

  3. Stories get the job done. Stories connect with the heart, and numbers make sense in your head. Potential donors will be more willing to give when you inspire them with a story. Specifically, a story that makes them feel good about what they can do to help.

Want to read more on this topic and how it relates to fundraising success? Download Homer Simpson for Nonprofits: The Truth About How People Really Think and What It Means for Promoting Your Cause.


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Wed, October 29 2014

There’s More in the Middle: Close Your Giving Gap Now

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Big Divide in Giving Trends by Income

A huge “aha” bloomed in my mind as I digested the findings on shifts in   giving patterns of rich vs. middle- and lower-income donors recently   released by the Chronicle of Philanthropy.*

Mash-up this takeaway with that shared a few months ago (by Sea Change Strategies’ Mark Rovner and Alia McKee) onThe Missing Middle: Neglecting Middle Donors is Costing You Millions and you get a   clear call to action for every fundraiser.

Although these two middles are differently defined—the Chronicle’s middle is based on income level, whereas Sea Change’s research highlights middle-level donors (donors who typically give from between $250 to $900/annually to a single organization)—there’s just one conclusion: There’s more value in middle donors than we imagined, and its time right now to close the gap by building and nurturing those relationships.

Here’s the data and analysis that will help you close your organization’s giving gap:

Middle-Income Donors Give MORE of Their Income to Charity than the Wealthy Do

The rich are now giving a much smaller share of their income to charities, while middle–income donors give more, as indicated in 2006 to 2012 income tax data analyzed by the Chronicle:

        “Generosity can be measured in many ways, and looking at total dollars donated versus donations in relation to share of income shows how stark the comparisons can be.  

        The wealthiest Americans—those who earned $200,000 or more—reduced the share of their income they gave to charity by 4.6 percent from 2006 to 2012.  

  Meanwhile, Americans who earned less than $100,000   (including poor and middle-class families with two working adults) donated 4.5 percent more of their income in 2012 than in 2006.”

But Most Middle Donors Aren’t Cultivated…Enough

The Sea Change findings emphasize how just many organizations are missing out on middle donors (donors that give at the middle-level in this case), and the potential value that middle donors have for most nonprofit organizations.

Even more startling is the finding that nonprofits that focus on this group—despite its huge potential—are few and far between. More typically, development staff members specialize in lower dollar direct-marketing fundraising or cultivate high-value major donors. Oof-what about the missing middle?

Here’s your chance to get giving going better than ever before—an opportunity sitting right in front of you!  Read this report to get Alia and Mark’s guidance on “8 Habits of Highly Effective Mid-Level Donor Programs.” Then use their 30-day plan to close up your giving gap.

  *The Chronicle’s analysis is based on returns filed by those who itemize deductions, including charitable gifts (these gifts are approximately 80%   of total giving).

  More here on The Missing Middle

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Wed, October 22 2014

The most important holiday for all fundraisers

Liz Ragland's avatar

Marketing Content Associate, Network for Good

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

Be Your Donor Collage

Thanks to the most-photogenic NFGers for reminding us why it’s important to #beyourdonor on October 24th!

Network for Good’s favorite holiday is this month. Although we do love Halloween, October 24this Be Your Donor Day and the reason why we celebrate big this month!

Sometimes fundraisers are so caught up in the day to day that we forget how important our donors are to our organization’s success. Without understanding how our donors interact with our organization, what the donation process looks like from a donors’ point of view, and how donors are thanked for their gift, we can’t do much to improve (or overhaul!) the process.

It takes more effort to bring in a new donor than to retain an existing donor. Once a donor starts a relationship with your organization, do your best to ensure that donor has a positive experience. That’s why we want all fundraisers to join in and celebrate this very important holiday.

Block out some time on October 24th and do an audit of your donor communication. Make sure your all your fundraising activities are donor-centric. Don’t know where to start? Here are some ideas:

· Your home page’s Donate Now button should take less than 5 seconds to locate and donors shouldn’t have to make more than one click to get to your donation page.

· Thank you letters should talk less about how much your organization does and should instead talk more about what a donor’s gifts does.

· Your organization’s contact information should be easy to find on your website, letterhead, emails, and gift receipts. And when a donor does call, promptly answer questions.

We recommend you download our complete Be Your Donor Day checklist and check out all your fundraising activities for “donor-centricness”. Be your donor on October 24th and be your organization’s fundraising superhero!

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Mon, October 20 2014

Love ‘Em Up Now to Boost Year-End & 2015 Support

Nancy Schwartz's avatar

Nonprofit Marketing Expert

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Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

This final quarter can shine as the time to generate the donations you need to move your organization’s mission forward, if you do it right.

In fact, 40% of online donors make their gifts in December, and that 40% to 60% of those gifts are made the last two days of the month according to superstar fundraiser Gail Perry. Offline giving is up as well in December, says Perry.

But…Just don’t wait until December to ramp up the start or strengthen your campaign, and don’t stop too early that month!

Start the Nurturing NOW with these 3 Simple Steps

1. Thank your current supporters—of all stripes—enthusiastically and frequently

That includes clients, board members, donors, volunteers, partners and others who help your organization move its mission forward. So many organizations lose out on prospective donations when they focus thanks on current and recent donors only.

Others who dedicate their time, passion and/or partnerships to your organization are just as loyal, and likely donors.

Thank them:

  • Meaningfully with personality and passion,
  • Memorably—Show, rather than tell, supporter impact with profiles of their fellow supporters (ideal for folks like board members or major donors) or client profiles and testimonials
  • Often, across all channels. For example:
  • o Fire up your program staff to thank program participants and the person who cultivates new donors to give them an extra personal (real signature or the occasional call—even if you can’t do it for everyone)

    o Get out there with your appreciation signage. If you have a physical plant where supporters work and/or visit, put those walls to work. Nothing brings on a smile—and a connection—than photo-driven success stories as surround sound!


2. The more personal and relevant the better

Segment your prospects by what youdo know about them is the most reliable way to do so.

Ways to segment include:

  • Donors: By average annual dollar value of gifts (e.g. High-dollar vs. middle vs. entry-level donors)
  • Volunteers: By length of volunteer involvement
  • Partners: By type of partnership (e.g. event sponsorship vs. advertising vs. collaborative program delivery)
  • Board members: and prospects; or five-year or more volunteers, two- to five-year volunteers and new volunteers)
  • Supporters who are already in two “supporter silos” but not yet donors—for example, a volunteer who is also the parent of a program participant. Their dedication is proven and current – these folks deserve special attention.

If the number of personal notes required is unreasonable, consider sending hand-signed custom holiday greeting cards to members of your Tier 1 network: Board members, loyal volunteers who are top prospective donors, donors (or at least some donors—returning, new, young or any other group that deserves special recognition). That personal signature makes all the difference.

We all want to know that our effort (be it money, time or attention) is valued. Don’t miss this natural opportunity to appreciate your supporters. And encourage colleagues, who many have slightly different networks, to do the same.

3. Reach out right now to rejuvenate relationships that have gone dark this year

In selecting and segmenting your lists, you’re likely to find a group of former supporters (don’t limit it to donors) who have gone quiet in the last year or six months.

Now’s the time to nudge them out of hibernation, by thanking them for their prior support and sharing stories that showcase how your organization has moved your cause forward in the last year. Focus on established programs they’re likely to be familiar with rather than new funding or volunteer needs.

Select the channel that fits best with each sub-group’s habits and preferences, and—if you have the data—feature messages that have generated response in the past. I recommend a multi-part campaign (preferably multichannel, try a mix of email and direct mail, with a call thrown in if possible for high-value supporters).

Most importantly—Don’t forget the strategic ask in this outreach. The strategy comes in the way you say it. After all, if you didn’t hear from a friend in a year would you call him up and ask for an invitation to his famed Oscars party? Doubt it.

Apply that same logic to your rejuvenation asks—love ‘em up first, then do the asking.

Get your nurturing going on all burners today! It’ll pay off this year and beyond.

How do YOU nurture your donors? Please share what works for you—and what doesn’t—in the comments below!

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