Photos to Fire Up Campaigns & Protect Privacy

Dear Nancy: Our last two year-end campaigns were centered around client stories, each powered by a photo or two. We got fantastic feedback on these stories and I planned to feature similar profiles this year.

That plan changed radically last month when our social workers urged us to put our clients’ privacy first and stop using client photos. Our staff has agreed to respect their expertise and honor their request.

What are some practical alternatives I can put to work in these last few weeks? And how do I move forward with client photos in the future, as our stories are far less memorable without them?

Answer: You’re facing a tough situation, but you can still mobilize stories and photos in for year-end (and beyond).

You’re 100% right to rely on stories as a quick and reliable emotional hook. They help bring your stories (and your people) to life, making it quick and easy for prospects and donors to feel like they’re “meeting” your protagonist. The more real your protagonists, the more supporters will relate to them personally, e.g., this could be my friend, my family, or even me.

When you connect the dots between your organization’s impact and what supporters already know and care about (such as their family’s and friends’ well-being), you’ll build trust and rapport with them.

There’s more—Your stories about individuals who have benefited from your donors’ gifts show supporters the impact of their donations, which brings them closer. In turn, they’re more likely to donate again now and in the future, and to share your organization’s stories and successes with friends and family.

How to Handle this Year’s Year-End Campaign

But right now, time is short. You’re nearing the finish line on this year’s campaign although your digital platforms enable last-minute revisions (blessing and curse, right?) Take these three steps to tweak this year’s campaign to maximize giving given your unexpected constrictions:

1) DON’T use client photos as is for this year-end campaign.

Trust your social workers’ understanding of what is best for your organization’s beneficiaries. Despite the late timing of their request, your mission comes first. Respect their expertise.

2) DO feature client stories and testimonials with any or all of these adjustments as guided by your social worker colleagues:

  • Change client names
  • Revise story details to make protagonists unrecognizable
  • Create a composite story based on a few individuals to illustrate a fuller picture of your program or service.

3) DO use any or all of the following to illustrate your beneficiary stories:

  • Photos of staff members or volunteers (for example, a staff nurse giving a flu shot to a client whose back is turned to the camera or a volunteer team packing bags of food for holiday distribution)
  • Use edited client photos with faces obscured, individuals positioned, or shots cropped so that the individuals won’t be recognized. You should have releases from subjects even if they can’t be identified, and clear this approach with your social workers.
    • We have experimented with non-identifying photos of the child and photos of volunteers and parents. To our surprise, some of these photos have proven to be even more powerful than the kids’ expressions of excitement,” says Angela Crist, former executive director of Findlay Hope House.
  • Feature photos of elements central to your client’s story such as the set of keys and drivers license pictured below.
  • Stock photos.

Here are two creative examples of memorable photos that protect client dignity and privacy, from Advocates, Inc.’s Facebook page:

“[I look] forward to everybody sharing what is going on…[and] hearing that people are positive, always seeing the silver lining.” – Shaun Grady, Brain Injury Survivor & Co-Facilitator of Advocates’ Brain Injury Survivor Support Group. Read more about the support group that meets twice a month for survivors to share their struggles, stories, and resources: http://bit.ly/2JcwB57

CAVEAT: If you use stock photos, change story details or client names, or create composite stories, say so!

Here’s a model disclaimer from fundraising copywriter Lisa Sargent: “At [org name] we respect everyone who comes to us for help – and many are working toward a fresh start in life. So while their stories are true, client names and images may have been changed to protect their privacy. Thank you for understanding.”

Maintaining client dignity and safety is crucial for every organization. However, photos and stories are too valuable an engagement tool to forego altogether. Follow this 7-point checklist for ethical storytelling to shape photo-illustrated stories that meet client privacy standards and spur your people to donate and spread the word.

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Nancy Schwartz in storytelling | 0 comments
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