Say no to giant cheque pictures

A company / school / church / family / colleague has done some fundraising and raised lots of money for you! Brilliant! You both want to share the good news. But how to show how much has been raised? Yes, it is GIANT cheque time.

The cheque photo is still much used. I spot on average a couple a day on my Twitter feed.

Collage of awful cheque pictures

Cheque pictures are especially used by smaller charities, hospital charities, hospices and corporates. They can be terrible photos, best suited to an internal newsletter or local newspaper rather than social media. People who have raised money will of course still want their cheque pictures and that’s fine. I think that that we as comms people / charity fundraisers can help make them better and/or use them in better ways.

Pictures on social media need to tell a story and be interesting enough to make you pause and read more. Posed people shaking hands over a big piece of paper (or sometimes small ones), smiling in front of a busy backdrop isn’t enough.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Step away from the giant cheque picture and make your fundraising proof more interesting. As the recipient of the money, you can say thank you and recognise the effort made in more creative ways.

Show your total in a different way

Who still uses cheques anyway? Think about how to show your total in a different / interesting / unusual way.

This tweet from BHF illustrates the contribution from their corporate partnership with DFS, raising £13m, with red number balloons in a sofa showroom.

BHF show their total in balloons

St Wilfred’s Hospice shared a cheque made out of chocolate.

A slab of chocolate with writing on it to look like a cheque

I really like this illustration of the total raised through Clothes Aid for CHAS (Childrens Hospices Across Scotland). CHAS also seem to take their mobile logo with them to announce big totals – see this tweet from the Edinburgh Playhouse.

CHAS - clothes laid out on the grass, in the middle is a child holding the numbers £500,000

Show impact

A cheque photo can be improved by illustrating the difference the money will make. Include beneficiaries or an illustration of what you’ll spend the money on. FitzRoy’s giant cheque picture includes staff and beneficiaries.

Cheque picture includes two people in wheelchairs as well as three others holding the giant cheque

Get a mascot

Make your cheque stand out by presenting it to someone interesting. Naomi House Hospice featured a giant teddy bear and a nice thank you for the £406.54 raised.

Cheque presentation with a giant teddy bear

Look enthusiastic!

Celebrate your good news with some smiles and cheers!

No cheque here but Pilgrims Hospices are celebrating a partnership with a team photo.

Smiling and waving staff in front of a bus with giant sunflowers

And Railway Children celebrated a long-term partnership with a cheque, big logos and a train! They look so happy!

Cheering people next to a train, with cheque and train logos

Don’t show me the money

A big thank you can be more eye-catching than a cheque with lots of information in tiny writing. See this example from GirlGuiding with a big thank you to players of the Postcode Lottery.

Thank you in big letters held up by the Girl Guiding team

Tell a story

The handing over of the money is the least interesting bit of your story.

Tell a story about how or why the fundraising was done. It is great to say thanks or be enthusiastic about the amount raised (“they/we raised an amazing £xxx”) but that doesn’t bring the effort to life. How many people raised this money? Over how long? What did they learn or gain from doing this? Can they share insights about why this money is important?

Take a look at these messages from Kidderminster and District Youth Trust (KDYT) which they shared on Facebook. The first message shows how they responsed to getting a donation, the second is from the donor explaining what they did and why the thanks meant so much.

Thank you message for money raised for a youth group

A story can be told in a few words. Acorns Hospice shared the story of money raised by a couple celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary.

Acorns - cheque for £150 from donations to mark a couple's 40th wedding anniversary

To cheque or not to cheque?

If you do have to use a cheque:

  • avoid the awkward line-up / shaking hands with the mayor-type pictures
  • use an interesting backdrop and make sure the picture is in focus and isn’t too dark
  • smile / be enthusiastic
  • use more than one picture – the cheque and then images from the skydive / fancy dress / cake sale
  • make the text interesting – use a quote and a link to bring it to life.

If you have to RT or share your fundraiser’s cheque photo, do it with a thank you picture and link to read more about how the money will be used. Don’t just RT it with no comment.

Other examples?

Have you seen any great examples of fundraising proof? I’d love to see them.

Read more about images on social media in my previous post, which is packed with lots more examples of how to say thank you and not be boring.

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9 thoughts on “Say no to giant cheque pictures

  1. Thanks for this Madeleine. In an era when effective images and graphics matter even more, I think it’s essential that charities stop defaulting to the giant cheque handover to say thank you or to illustrate impact. Charities that stick with that style will not stand out.

    As well as it being a lazy approach, it’s also too often a sign of navel-gazing. ‘Here’s the money we have been given’. It’s a good news story but numbers – even on a giant cheque – are not compelling. People helped, people helping others, before/after images – those are really what the donation is about.

    I recognise that some donors want this kind of recognition, especially corporates. But I’d recommend explaining them that a different picture (or video!) can achieve far more impact and perhaps inspire more donations.

    As a publisher of a fundraising news website, I still, after 23 years, receive many giant cheque images each month to illustrate fundraising successes. As such, it is the only kind of image that I refuse to publish on the site.

    Just think of a website full of inspiring photos and stories of generosity and the change that charities achieve. Actually, do that – *picture* that!

  2. Often it’s the fundraisers themselves who want the giant cheque. And why shouldn’t they? Who are we to rain on their parade after they’ve successfully raised the money? Especially when this has probably been something they’ve put a lot of work, time and effort into. I’m not going to say ‘no, we don’t want this photo because it’s hackneyed and boring.’ It’ll get them in their local paper (which is great recognition for them), and creates a sense of occasion. I think we can say thanks to our fundraisers in other ways as well, but why should we stop them having a giant cheque if that’s what they want??? I find this dislike a bit patronising and not very donor focused.

    • Thanks for your comment Danielle.

      I recognise that the cheque pictures are often driven by the fundraisers. I am not saying don’t do them at all, just don’t use them on social where I think we can do better. Often these types of pictures don’t do justice to their tremendous efforts and won’t do much to capture attention or drive engagement.

      This post is very much aimed at professional charity staff rather than at the people raising money. The examples I have used are ones from charities and show how cheque pictures can be improved, especially by the text supporting it. It is intended as a call to action to be more creative and do more to thank or illustrate fundraising efforts rather than relying on a big cheque.

  3. Great piece Madeleine! Couldn’t agree more. The standard giant cheque picture is so unengaging to regular Facebook users, and when posts get bad engagement that affects the performance of the entire page. I know that corporate donors and community fundraisers really like them, but it can be handled pretty easily – just tell them at the outset that you’ll need another photo of them actually doing the event or showing the amount raised in a more interesting way, because cheque photos don’t work on Facebook. The cheque photo still has a place – it can go on LinkedIn, in the print newsletter, local media and in the thank you message. I’ve seen corporate thank yous on LinkedIn get really good engagement.

    I really like the alternatives that you’ve provided – balloons are so simple but so much more colourful and eye catching.

  4. Excellent. When I was a journalist back in the mid-90s these things were banned and we rarely used them when they were submitted pics either. The truth then is the truth now. The interesting thing is how the money was raised or who will benefit. Not a firing squad pose with a giant piece of card. Ditto pics with the Mayor.

  5. Pingback: POST HASTE: Your cheque presentation… what do you want to achieve? | The Dan Slee Blog

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  7. Feel very torn on this! 100% with you on the importance of interesting, relevant imagery on social media. ‘Include an image in your post’ is Social Media 101 at this point, so cutting through the noise with something special is now what we have to aim for.

    And yes, big cheque pics can blend into the background as we’ve seen them so many times before.

    But then someone shared one with us the other day (we encounter quite a few in my organisation!) – pretty standard, similar to those at the top of your post. But the accompanying message was really positive and uplifting (they were SO happy to be getting their cheque!) that I forgot my critical digital comms eye (and it maybe welled up a bit).

    There was something quite authentic in its simplicity.

    That said, you can only get people to the uplifting message if you catch their eye with a great picture and stop the neverending social media scroll.

    Great post! And good conversation starter/source of debate for us charity digital folk!

    • Thanks Greg, glad it prompted discussion in your office!

      Your example sounds like it really stood out. It connected with you because of the words used, as well as their enthusiasm and story.

      So many of the everyday cheque pictures just rely on the cheque and line-up. Think how many amazing stories are being missed by sticking with the formula! There are cheque pictures which stand out for me and these are the ones which are enthusiastic and positive. Its not about big totals and bigger pieces of paper, it’s about understanding the effort (time / pain / love etc) which someone has put in to raise the money and the difference this will make. It’s that which is meaningful and makes us stop and think. That’s why we as comms people have a duty to do it better.

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