The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

Compelling Images for Nonprofits: When Babies and Puppies Aren’t in Your Mission

The verdict is in: Donors love puppies and babies. But not every organization can use an image of a child or dog to tell their story. So what kind of images can you use if your mission isn’t related to a smiling child or a playful puppy? Here are some ideas to help you create or find compelling images for your nonprofit.

Find Inspiration

Look to other organizations you admire and see how they are using images. Here are a few examples from our Network for Good partners:

To recruit volunteers and supporters, the San Francisco-based St. Anthony Foundation used Facebook to showcase a collection of images featuring current volunteers, local famous faces and their clients posing with their dining room’s newly branded cafeteria trays.


  • Gardens for Health International’s website has beautiful images of their work. Most of their images are action shots with a high color contrast that always leave the viewer feeling positive.
  • The St. Anthony Foundation has a great collection of photos from their Willing to Serve campaign (including some famous faces).
  • The St. Bernard Project has wonderful stories and images accompanying their Faces of Katrina campaign.
  • The Arts Council of New Orleans never misses an opportunity to take pictures at community events showcasing the arts in their area.
  • Public radio station 90.7 KSER has a unique way of highlighting their staff members and behind-the-scenes moments with images on their Facebook page.

Organize Your Ideas

  • Start a Pinterest board and collect images you admire. When the time comes to work with a photographer, show them the images you’ve collected so that they understand the types of photos you are looking for. Sharing good examples helps set an expectation for the kind of images you want.
  • Think about the work your organization does. How can you capture that in an image? Are there any upcoming events that would serve as good photo opportunities that can help tell your story? Would an on-site photo shoot or a series of pictures of your fieldwork do a good job of illustration your mission?

Getting Started

When moving beyond inspiration to taking and choosing photos, don’t forget the basics:

  • Use photos to help tell your story.
  • Choose photos that grab the attention of the viewer.
  • Use photos that create an emotional impact. (Human faces are the best.)
  • If you can’t take your own images anytime soon, learn the right way to use stock images.

Storing Your Photos

Once you have a solid collection of photos that represent your work, what do you do with them? Here are suggestions for storing and managing photos.

Google’s Picasa makes it easy to control a photo album’s privacy setting.

  • Your organization’s shared drive is one place where you can keep images. Photos stored on a shared drive are accessible to everyone in your office and, unlike a desktop computer, can be recovered if your organization’s system crashes.
  • An external hard drive is another option for photo storage. External hard drives are portable, reliable, and are a good storage solution for organizations that don’t have a shared drive.
  • If you chose to store images online, consider using a free tool such as Picasa, Flickr, or Dropbox.

Sharing Your Photos

Before you start publishing images online, sharing them with the media, or adding them to your annual report, be sure to have the following:

  • Photographer’s name. (Don’t forget to give credit!)
  • Caption to accompany the image. (Captions are read more often than blocks of copy.)
  • Relevancy. Images need to enhance your story, not distract or confuse.

Social media is a great place to share images that you’ve collected.

  • Post an image on Facebook and ask your fans to contribute caption suggestions.
  • Share images on Twitter with a specific call to action (and don’t forget an appropriate hashtag).
  • If your staff members and volunteers have the ability to take pictures with their phones, encourage them to share on Instagram.

Be sure to include images in as many communication pieces as possible. Compelling images create a deeper emotional impact than words alone. Include images on your website, newsletter, donor appeal letters, fundraising campaign pieces, brochures, annual report, Holiday greetings, and event invitations.


  • You don’t have to have puppies and babies in your images to make them appealing to donors.
  • Create an emotional impact with the images you chose.
  • Collecting and capturing images should be part of your regular communications plan.
  • Look for inspiration, don’t be afraid to get started, and continue to build up your nonprofit’s photo collection.
  • When you capture the heart and soul of your mission, iPhone pictures on Instagram can be just as compelling as professional photograph.

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About This Blog

Carrie Saracini
Content Marketing Manager

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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