When describing their positions, I have heard many nonprofit employees claim that they do, well, a little of everything! It’s an admission proclaimed with equal parts exhaustion and proud resilience. There may not be as much in the coffers as we would like or hours in the day but personal involvement, cooperation, and passion for an organization can trump some of the practical obstacles nonprofits face.
Taking time to shape and build a strategy for telling your nonprofit’s story is becoming increasingly important. We are in fact living in the most visually proficient culture ever seen by humanity. As Liz Banse of Resource Media put it, “Ten percent of all of the photographs made in the entire history of photography were made last year.” A not surprising effect of this culture is the necessity for organizations to purposefully build images for themselves, a brand. Today many nonprofits are asked to be committed, passion-driven, impact focused organizations as well as their own marketing teams.
Establishing the demand for better, more emotionally engaging stories is swiftly becoming one of the highest valued skills for nonprofits.
With our upcoming “Photo Field Trip” workshop this Wednesday, we wanted to take some time to explore a few excellent resources which discuss the importance of visually engaging your audience.
In “Seeing is Believing: A Guide to Visual Storytelling Best Practices”, Resource Media presents a report outlining their research project designed to understand the differences between word and image crafting. The report begins with very essential statistics into humanity’s visual tendencies. Emotional cues and cognitive development begin, for most of us, in the realm of images.
From a fundraising perspective it quickly becomes apparent how linking image making and distribution to your organization’s mission can have great impact. But an image alone may not evoke the sorts of emotions your nonprofit is hoping to elicit.
A picture depicting deforestation or an eagle from any angle or quality do not inherently mean anything without the proper contextualization. Rather, they have the potential to act as emotional gateways to compliment your organization’s image.
“Digitally Storytelling for Social Impact”, a report commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation, identifies that “social impact organizations” have a need for resources to enable them to “tell more and better stories”. Most importantly though, organizations need to create their own demand for more and better stories designed to achieve their philanthropic goals. Specifically the report seeks to address essential questions in five areas:
And while the report appears to address only those organizations that can pay-to-play this game of high quality demand, it nevertheless demonstrates the effectiveness of sustained, quality storytelling in particular platforms.
Of particular note in both the Rockefeller and Resource Media reports is an emphasis on “authenticity” and “quality”. Inauthentic, stock photographs (like those I gathered from Creative Commons Flickr users above!) may serve a particular, generic use, but they rarely are upon which we can build a story. Candid photographs are of particular note in achieving this sense of authentic, direct impact. Fortunately for many fledgling or small organizations there is a great deal of direct ground time with those they serve.
Which brings us to the “quality” question! With a growing number of (more) affordable digital cameras and sharing platforms the opportunity to build an ongoing, authentic narrative for your organization is more accessible. But for many who have little to no experience with photography taking on those preliminary hurdles can appear daunting.
If you’re looking to take on this challenge for your current or future organization don’t miss our introduction to photography workshop this Wednesday, 9/17: “Photo Field Trip: Focusing your Nonprofit’s Image”
In the meantime get your feet wet with these fine resources:
• The Case Foundation Social Media 101
• Creating a Social Media Plan
• A Newbies Guide to Flickr
• A Top Ten List of Instagram Photo Editing Apps