Show don’t tell. Using images in fundraising

fundraising copywriting

A picture says a thousand words.

It’s a cliché but true. You can say far more in one image than you can in a few words.


And in a world where people are constantly being bombarded with information, getting your point across quickly is vital to improve your fundraising success.


How can you make your message stand out?


I recently heard Araceli Camargo (The Cube London and WeCreate NYC) speak. She suggested that one of the reasons for the multi-channel delivery of information is that, as a society, we have become more visual.

Humans have pretty much always been visual. After all, before the invention of the alphabet – and even modern language – there were cave drawings. The Ancient Egyptians had hieroglyphics, and it wasn’t until the advent of first ‘true’ alphabet by the Greeks in around 800BC when text started to overtake drawings.

Now, however, thanks to technology, society is shifting back towards the visual – and while it’s unlikely that we’ll go back to solely communicating through images like our cave dwelling ancestors, it’s worth noting that images are becoming increasingly popular, particularly online.

Videos and images get far more social media shares than text. A Facebook video is 12 times more likely to be shared than an average post, while photos get 53% more shares than posts without images. 

YouTube has over 100 million users every week, while over on Pinterest, video and photo posts are referring more traffic than Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn and Google+ according to online marketing experts, Hubspot.

Using visuals when telling your charitys story will increase engagement and make your message stand out from others. You’re also likely to get more social media shares and, if its an offline communication, such as a newsletter, you can show the donor your story quickly in one image without them having to read through pages and pages of information to get to the point.


Of course, it’s not quite as simple as just using nice pictures. You need to use the right imagery.

A good start is to think about images that have personally stood out for you.

For me, images that continue to resonate include the starving children in Ethopia around the time of the very first Band Aid campaign and the tombstone used in one of the first adverts to raise awareness of HIV/Aids through the Dont Die of Ignorancecampaign. (The latter scared the living daylights out of an entire generation which possibly wasn’t entirely what they were aiming for but it was certainly effective in getting the message across).


If you’d like to read more about this, Jeff Brooks has written a great post about why using the right images is important and how to determine which you should use.

In summary, he suggests the following when choosing your images:

  • Forget about what you like or dislike but more about what has stayed with you – whether you’ve hated it or not (like the tombstone image above, which I couldn’t say I liked but has definitely been memorable).
  • Does the image tell the same story that you’re trying to get across – and ask someone from outside your charity what it tells them.
  • Does it look real or staged?

Jeff’s tips on the most compelling fundraising images include:

  • Colour works better than black and white.
  • People work better than ‘things’.
  • Eye contact is good.
  • One person is better than lots of people.

An image will stay with your donors far longer than the written word so use and create a powerful message to improve your fundraising messages.  


The soul never thinks without a picture.   Aristotle



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