Using Images to Improve Your Nonprofit Websites and Blog Posts

 

We use imagery in all our posts and we encourage every nonprofit to do the same. The advantages to having media in your posts are almost too many to mention, but we’ll name a few major ones that just can’t be overlooked.

kindness-heart-image-orgspring

Dramatic Flair

Posts with images just look nicer, and if you use an iconic image that captures the mood of your post it will add dramatic flair that enhances your words.

Emma_Logo_VerticalImages you choose don’t always have to be exact matches to your posts. For instance, we wrote a post called The Technology of Kindness and Generosity, which details a gift we received from Emma Email marketing. How does one display “generosity” or “kindness” in an image? A hug, handshake, smile, etc?

We chose to use an image of a paper heart with a nice contrast background, and it works really well.  It’s the same image used for this posts’ featured image. It shows on our blog archive page and above the content on this post. It’s actually one of our more highly trafficked posts that isn’t a tutorial. Partially because of the interesting title, but also because of that great photo which is visible throughout our social media streams.

Some organizations struggle with finding images that fit what they do. For example, we work with a domestic violence shelter, Alle-Kiski Area Hope Center, which provides a safe place for women and children who experience domestic violence. For security reasons, the Hope Center can’t post pictures of the people it helps, nor images of its shelters or offices. One of the constant challenges for that organization is finding the right image for the right post. If you view their blog, I think you’ll see they do a nice job of image selection.

If you’re experience similar trouble deciding on what images are appropriate for your posts I suggest stepping back and trying to capture the idea of your post in just a single word, a very short list of just a few keywords. Then try picking an image that focuses on that same idea or keyword. That way, the image doesn’t necessarily reflect the exact content of your post but it will reflect the theme or major thrust of your words. In the end, the human brain is smart enough to make the connection very quickly, and those images can be just as powerful and memorable.

Engagement

The research is undeniable. Blog posts and social network posts with images are shared more often and commented on more often than posts without images. Marketing firm Hubspot has done extensive research in this area. They show that posts on Facebook with images are shared 50% more than posts without images, and posts with images are commented on 100% more than posts without images. But wait, we’re talking about blogs…not Facebook.  Well, kind of. If you use software like WordPress, when you add images to your posts and then those posts are shared or linked to on Facebook – they will automatically be posted with the images you attach on your blog post. Its like magic!

Interestingly enough, the same holds true for Twitter, according to social networking plugin Buffer.

If you really want to supercharge your social sharing on your posts on social networks you can include multiple images in galleries. This does take some manual work, but research shows these posts get almost 13x more clicks than posts with just one image. Amazing!

If you’re a visual person like me, and you want to see these statistics represented in a nice infographic, I recommend the one shown below from Jeff Bullas, who is a social media and blogging pro.

Images in Media increase nonprofit engagement

Click to view full image on Jeff Bullas’ Website

 

Search Results

Images also have effect on search — they’re being used more and more by search engines to help categorize work. Search engines are so sophisticated they can read the context of your posts, captions to images, even meta data and titles for those images to help classify and rank your articles.

Having a well placed, and well-titled image can make a big difference on how people find you online. See this article/video from Matt Cutts (search master from Google) and also this video discussing why adding descriptions to your images is so important.

 

Formatting

Long blocks of uninterrupted text look horrible on the web. Also, people read web pages differently than they read print documents. On the web, you need to break up your long blocks of text to make the words on-screen more easily readable.

Adding images to your nonprofit websites and blog posts are an effective way to break up long blocks of text and make your content more searchable.

 

Stock Photography and Affordability

NPstarterwebPriceTag-947The only problem with adding great quality images to your posts is that they can sometimes be expensive to source.

Sites like Getty Images and iStockPhoto offer some of their professional photos at a price of $100 each, or more! That’s crazy. And as a nonprofit, you probably don’t need such high-end imagery, especially when these images can be sources much cheaper from other sites.

But first, let’s discuss the term stock photography, because it might be foreign to some people reading this.

Stock photography are images and photos taken by professionals and amateur photographers and put online for sale to the public. Stock photography is typically offered “Royalty-Free” which means once you purchase an image you do not have to pay continuing royalties for its use.

Most stock photography come with a license to use across all your mediums, like websites, print media, brochures, etc. There are some limitations though, and you should check the license agreement that comes with any stock purchase.

As a nonprofit, using stock photography makes sense because we often post the same information across multiple mediums. For instance, we do a blog post about an upcoming walk-a-thon. That post lives on the web, but we’re also doing a physical mailer, a newsletter, and an e-blast. To keep the imagery consistent across all mediums we would use the same stock photo. The good news is, we pay for it just once and we can use it across the board for all time. It’s a big win, and even if we paid a few dollars for that picture, the more we use it, the more value we get out of that purchase.

OrgSpring Recommends Deposit Photos

I’ve used nearly every stock site out there, and I recommend deposit photos (affiliate link) where I purchased all the stock imagery you see in this article, and across our blogs, in general. I’m often asked where to go for great photos and this is where I send people.

They feature millions of stock photos in every category imaginable, plus they have motion backgrounds, videos for editorial use and more.

Where other stock sites charge $5-120 per photo or more, you can purchase large stock photos from deposit for less than $1 per image using download packs.

 

How Not to Use Images in Your Nonprofit Blog Posts

Whatever you choose, there is one thing you should NEVER do when adding images to your site. Don’t just grab any image off another website you find by doing a simple Google search. You don’t know the source of that image, the meta-data it contains, or its legal usage or copyright.

Chances are that image is copyrighted and you can get in trouble if your usage of that image breaks that copyright. We can’t dispense legal advise here and tell you what copyright laws are in your area, but we can cite the golden web rule: – you’d probably be annoyed if someone stole your content or used it in a way that you didn’t like. Think about that before you take someone else’s work – images included.

 

FreeFree Image Resources

If $1 an image is too rich for you, there are a few free photo resources you can use too:

Those are just two of my favorites because they both show high res images and are easy to discern copyright and/or attribution for use on your site. Buffer published a list of 53 free image sites, which is a fantastic resource. You can find that here: http://blog.bufferapp.com/free-image-sources-list

When using images from either of these sites you’ll likely need to provide attribution— that means you’ll need to cite the creator/owner of the image and possibly provide a link back to that original image on the web. Details of the type of required attribution are included in the license terms at those photo sharing sites.

 

A Few Good Examples of Nonprofit Blogs

Of course, we don’t want to give you this info and leave you hanging. Here are a few great examples of images within posts on some nonprofit blogs we’re sure you’ll know:

How about what NOT to do. Here are a few examples of pots that miss a good opportunity to use great imagery”

  • Splash.org Stories – Their website is colorful and uses high res photos, but when you click over to blog, the writing covers those nice images, and they’re also nowhere to be found in the article itself, which means if someone picks up on or shares that story in a social stream they’re missing out on imagery too.
  • MichaelJFox.org – The MJF website is one of my favorite nonprofit sites. It’s very well done … except for the blog. The site has such great imagery and wonderful storytelling. It’s a very compelling site, but when you get to the blog it feels like it doesn’t really fit with the rest of the site for a lack of consistent use of imagery.

 

CALL TO ACTION: Show off your Nonprofit!

If you’ve got a great blog post you’d like to show off for your nonprofit, post it here in the comments and gain exposure for your organization! Use this format:

Post a link on the top line, then your organizations name on the second line, then a short (1 sentence) summary of your mission or what you do. If you’d like to get more attention for your organization, consider telling us about your org in our nonprofit profile section here.

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Craig Grella

Founder and Executive Director at OrgSpring
Craig is the founder and executive director or OrgSpring, a nonprofit dedicated to helping other nonprofits achieve their missions online. Through tips and tutorials, Craig's goal is show nonprofits how to use technology to become more efficient, grow their list of supporters, and increase online donations.