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February 2012

No words necessary

I came across a picture the other night on Facebook that I promptly shared.  It had no explanation, no tag, no link, no credit, no nothing.  Just a 4-word phrase, “Worth a Thousand Words”.  The phrase was true.  As you can see, a generous man is taking the very shoes off of his feet and donating them to a child in need. The child is obviously emotional about his gift.  Wherever they are, there seems to be some industrialization, but yet he/she is still struggling and in need of very basic necessities. 

See how I interpreted that?  I crafted my own story from this picture.

  NWN image1v2

Storytelling is one of the most recommended communication tactics in marketing and fundraising today. 

“Tell your brand’s story and connect deeper with your donors”

“People relate to people”

“Stories evoke emotions that drive action”

The advice goes on and on.  But have you ever thought about telling your story without words? How about just pictures?  Graphics that display exactly what your organization does.  An illustration of the end recipient benefiting from all those donations.  A simple statement without actually stating anything.  Sounds straightforward, I know.  But very few organizations seem to do it.  We always want to reiterate our point in case the reader didn’t get it the first 3 emails of the month.  It’s time to adapt to the new age of communication. 

We’re in the days of digital, ladies and gentleman - of texting instead of talking, avatars instead of real appearances, emails instead of addressing, and pictures instead of words.  The internet is slowly replacing the need for human interaction.  The idea of using pictures to send messages actually seems to put that human element back into contact.

Why do you think social networks like Pinterest, Instagram and Cowbird are getting so much traction?  They’re visually-driven and Americans don’t read!  (At least, not like we used to.)  I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about these networks recently and the truth is they’re the hottest things in social right now.  But if you can’t justify the investment with the limited resources you already have, it’s not the end of the world. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a way to repurpose the group activity and philosophy behind these popular networks into your everyday fundraising and marketing efforts … through graphical storytelling.

Forming an opinion or thought by viewing a picture is the new normal.  It’s quick, easy, and can be extremely powerful, more than text on a page (or in an email). 

Pictures are shareable on just about any social network and can grant your organization viral spread to the n’th degree in a matter of minutes – for virtually free.  When you design your next email, direct mail piece, or web page, think about what visuals would best represent your mission.  And I’m not talking about your logo.  Sum up the very reason for your existence in something powerful that warrants no written explanation (except maybe a call to action) - sort of like these:

  Holiday Wish List

The Salvation Army, Sierra del Mar

Charity Waterv2

Charity Water


People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

National Multiple Sclerosis Society - Michael, Diagnosed in 2004

A few images and just one sentence can help you appeal to your constituents in a deeper way than any copy-written paragraph.  

Have examples where you’ve tried this?  Share with us in the comments below!

-Amber Bonner

Amber is the Digital Project Manager in Merkle’s nonprofit vertical.  She chooses to Do What Matters because “it’d be too easy not to.  Challenge is good.”

What is this blog all about?

If you're serious about raising money from donors, you need to get serious about donors. More than ever before, donors are insisting that you share power with them, not treating them like passive ATMs. This blog is about the ways you can do that -- and the rewards that await you and your donors when you do.

About the Blogger

DonorPower Blog is penned by Merkle's Power Blogging Team, led by Greg Fox, our senior vice president of strategy. Working with Greg is a police line-up of guest "artists", fundraising pros all, who like to pose as blogatorialists when the sun goes down. You can reach this blog, and any of our regular contributors, at
donorpowerblog [at] merkleinc [dot] com. See this blog's policies.

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