Over the past few years, the way in which we absorb information has changed. This means that people are more prone to taking information visually as opposed to reading about it. Take for example the fact that more people nowadays are getting their news from the internet as opposed to purchasing a newspaper. What does this mean for your non-profit? Well for one, the methods utilized to disseminate information and engage your audience will need to change as well. Just take a look at Pinterest, one of the fastest-growing social networking sites in the world which shot up from obscurity in 2011. Instagram has also had a boost in popularity as of late, especially after their acquisition by Facebook. This means that more and more platforms are opening up for non-profits to tell their story through imagery. Sharing images through these platforms enable non-profits to connect with people whom they would otherwise have no chance of connecting with. Let me explain a little more about the important role that images now hold in non-profit marketing.  4703623633_77405e06f9_z

I am sure that you have heard the saying “a picture says a thousand words.” Indeed it is. Consider that 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. And visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. Just one picture of the work that your non-profit is undertaking or the cause that you are trying to promote can ignite more responses from a person than a wall of text ever could. Visuals turn ordinary information into powerful messages and can really resonate with a reader. As a non-profit, the main point of your marketing campaign is to deliver messages that move your audience to act. The skillful use of images can accomplish this.

Visual aids, infographics, photos, and videos enhance your message by adding a dimension to your writing that helps the reader remember what they have read. Many times readers may come away with a provocative image in their head which prompts them to want to learn more about the organization behind the ad. Many public campaigns use this tactic. Below are some examples:

Jessica-Alba---LPThis first image is from the Declare Yourself 2008 voting campaign. The actress in the print advertisement with her mouth taped shut is a symbol of silencing one’s voice as a consequence of not voting. It received national media attention.  

The second is a word art image for a storm drain campaign from the city of Patterson, California. It shows untreated wastewater from storm drains polluting a river. A reader who views this image suddenly has a picture in his/her head of how waste in storm drains can end up in our waterways.  Storm drain pollution

The third image below is an infographic from Wikimedia. Infographics include charts and illustrations that display data or information in a way that can be easily understood at a glance. The infographic on the left breaks down the most widely-used social media platforms in a way that viewers can quickly grasp.

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So by now you should understand the role the images have in non-profit marketing. In addition, research undertaken by PR Newswire has shown that press materials which include multimedia such as the examples above have a much greater chance of being viewed, and thus a greater chance of somebody sharing your information around the internet, or even in their offline publications. Take into consideration that Facebook images get 7 times more likes and 10 times more shares than do regular links and images are the most clicked on and most re-tweeted content on Twitter according to MediaBistro.com. 

In short, with visuals you also have a much better chance of being noticed on people’s ever-busy dashboards. And keep in mind that if you have a pretty hard hitting image then the chances of you “going viral” are increased substantially. Going viral means that your image is going to spread rapidly around the internet, generating even more views for your cause. It is highly unlikely that text alone will go viral through social media.  

So how do you know what visuals to add to your text? First, give some thought to the purpose of your visual. What emotions are you trying to conjure up? Also, what type of audience will be reading this information? Will they understand the meaning behind the image? For example, an image of a child’s face on the back of a milk carton may resonate more with readers who remember this 1980s phenomenon than will Millennials.

PhotographerAs you can see, images hold a very important role when it comes to the marketing of non-profits. So where do you get these images from? Well, the cheapest answer is to take the photographs yourself.  If you are looking for something slightly better in quality then there are plenty of micro-stock websites online which sell the rights to use selected images. Although do bear in mind that the cost in doing so may take a significant chunk of money off your marketing budget. 

You can also search online repositories such as Google Advanced Image Search which lets you search for photos that are free for commercial use as well those free with permission for modification. There is also Flickr, a popular photo sharing site with public images made available.

Last, there are also images created by the U.S. government that are part of the public domain. 

Hopefully I’ve demonstrated the importance of images in non-profit marketing. Remember–images enhance your writing, help you better connect with your audience, and can pique interest from readers in a way that will draw them to your cause.