Photos to Ignite Year-End & Protect Privacy

Dear Nancy: I saw how stories about our clients—powered by a photo or two—fueled our last two year-end campaigns. They were highly successful and I planned to feature the same kind of 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 aren’t as strong without them?

Answer: You’re facing a tough situation, but you can still mobilize stories and photos in your year-end campaign.

You’re 100% right to rely on stories as a quick and reliable emotional hook. Photos help bring your stories (and your people) to life. They make 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 do better at building 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

Time is short. You’re probably nearing the finish line on this year’s campaign although digital platforms enable last-minute revisions (blessing and curse, right?) Take these three steps to fine-tune this year’s campaign to ignite the greatest giving possible 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 unfortunate 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 Thanksgiving 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, 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 privacy.

From the Findlay Hope House Facebook Page:

We are so excited to share that Isaiah, recent Getting Ahead Grad, passed his driving test and is now a licensed driver! So many future successes depend on having a driver’s license, so this was one of his top goals during Getting Ahead.

Isaiah says: “Back when I did my classes a few months ago, I set one of my goals to get my license. As of 10:50 this morning I’m proud to announce that for the first time in my life (turned 33 in September) I am an officially-licensed driver!”

Congrats to Isaiah! We are certain this is his first big accomplishment of many!

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.”

Watch for a follow-up post! Photos are too valuable a fundraising tool to forego. I’ll guide you on partnering with your program team and other colleagues to shape a photo policy satisfactory to all.

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Nancy Schwartz in storytelling | 0 comments
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