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Photos not required. But if you do . . .

Published about 1 month agoΒ β€’Β 4 min read

Welcome, You! This is the 129th Fundraising Writing Newsletter. If you find value here, please tell a colleague. (Your colleague can ​subscribe here for free.)​

In this issue:

βœ… Photos not required. But if you do...

βœ… 3 Tips for choosing the right photo for your appeal

βœ… Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

​

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Hi Reader,

If you read my fundraising photo tips newsletter from last week, this right here is where I pull a Columbo and say, "Just one more thing."

(If you have no idea who Columbo is, no sweat. It is a classic TV show that originally aired in the 1900s.🀭 I remember the reruns. And if you don't know what reruns are, I'm throwing my arms up and will work hard next week to pick a cultural reference from this century.)

Lieutenant Columbo is a disheveled but sharp-minded detective who uses his wit and persistence to solve crimes committed by seemingly untouchable suspects. With his catchphrase "Just one more thing," Columbo uncovers the perfect crime.

So, with that in mind, let's solve the fundraising photo mystery! Here's "just one more thing" about photos in your fundraising appeals...


Photos not required. (But if you do...)

Using a photo that doesn't align with the urgent tone of your appeal can be counterproductive.

Don't just use the best photo you have; use the right photo!

Photos are like commas: "When in doubt, leave it out."

For example, Brett and I interviewed and wrote about a man named Jose for a client's year-end appeal. Here's the headline of the letter:

But the only photos we had of Jose were ones of him smiling. I'm talking about a photo like this one:

Truth is: when you hold up a camera to someone, they are most likely going to smile. It's what happens when we get our picture taken: we naturally β€” instinctively perhaps β€” smile. 😊

And had we used a smiling photo of Jose next to the "I don't want to die on the street" quote, the donor might wonder if he really said that...

...because the photo tells an entirely different story than the words. A happy photo in a fundraising appeal can erase the urgency you've crafted so carefully in your message.

So, if you don't have a photo that helps to lift the urgent message in your appeal, do consider using stock photography. (I regularly find excellent stock photos at good prices at Shutterstock and free with my Canva subscription.)

If your organization has a policy that prohibits the use of stock photography, then here's your solution:

Omit the photo.

It's more effective for your fundraising to omit the photo and let your compelling message take center stage.

Like this appeal letter without a photo.


3 Tips for choosing the right photo for your appeal

Neutral Empowerment β€” I learned this new term on stage this Tuesday at AFP ICON from my friend and fellow copywriter Sarah Masterson. This term embodies what we strive for in our appeals: need + confidence.

The above photos also have direct eye contact with the reader. This is ideal because it creates a powerful emotional connection between the donor and someone else associated with the organization.

It humanizes the cause, evokes empathy, and makes the message more compelling. It also creates a sense of shared experience and responsibility.

For causes that help animals, direct eye contact is also powerful, like in this photo of a mama cat and her kittens.

You may also consider photos that show a solution in action. Photos of the solution in action can evoke positive feelings β€” such as compassion, hope, and unity β€” in readers who want to be part of the solution.

These kinds of photos should not be featured on the first page, however, since they will not match the message of your story of need.

Instead, place them on page two or later, once you've described a vision of how the donor can help. (First you've told the story of need, then you've outlined a promise of what help might look like: the solution in action.)

Here are a couple of photos showing the solution in action:

* * *

Now, what about all the happy photos you want to share with donors?

Good news! There are many uses for your wonderful impact photos:

⭐ thank you messages

⭐ donor newsletters

⭐ e-stories

⭐ impact reports

They are needed in your donor comms... just not front and center in your appeals. πŸ’›


Do you have a specific challenge with photos for your fundraising appeals? Maybe your cause is "different" and you'd like some advice. If you don't mind us sharing your organization's challenge and a possible solution in a future newsletter, please hit reply and tell us about it!


Randomly yours: to inspire and recharge you

For your brain, heart, and funny bone...


Until next time: May you never sacrifice message for image β€” for your donors' and your bottom line's sake!

Grateful,

PS: When you are ready, we're happy to chat with you about how we might be able to help you with your donor communications β€” e.g., planning, writing, advising, reviewing, designing, training. Reply to this email or book a no-pressure call with me here.

Subscribe to the Fundraising Writing Newsletter

Hi! We're Julie Cooper and Brett Cooper, fundraising copywriters for great causes. Does your fundraising bring in as much money as it could? You can send donor communications that stir hearts to action. We'd love to help. πŸ’› Start by subscribing to our FREE weekly newsletter.

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