Digital advent calendars 2017

Here’s some festive cheer – the pick of this year’s digital advent calendars from charities, museums, heritage organisations, councils and other nonprofits.

MAA snowball

Some are using the opportunity to share gems from their archives or highlights from the year. Some use it for fundraising or to share important messages. Others set challenges, run competitions or just share lovely pictures. Some organisations are spreading their content over a more manageable 12 days.

Particular highlights

London Community Foundation

London Community Foundation are running a ’12 days of Christmas of small charities making a big difference across London’. Stories are released on their blog. On day 2 we meet Brixton-based Mosaic Clubhouse.

Gold star: This is a great way to highlight partners or projects.

Kindness Calendar

Action for Happiness’s Kindness Calendar. Each day has an act which anyone can do with the tag line ‘let’s spread more kindness this festive season’. An action is tweeted each day resulting in much interaction.

Gold star: Simple actions everyone can do.

Blurt's 30 day challenge to bring calmness to the festive period

The Blurt Foundation are running a #BlurtMerryCalmness challenge on Instagram and Twitter with the aim of ‘adding some calm to the festive fuss’. Each day has a theme and you are invited to build a pause, some joy and play into the specified days, interpreted as you like. People are sharing images which illustrate what they did (1500 on Instagram, 5 days in).

Gold star: Brilliantly focused challenge but with enough room in it for people to join in how they want. Very shareable with lovely graphics and tone of voice.

RI: David Attenborough with minor birds from 1973

Royal Institution’s archive films from their Christmas lectures. Day 1 is a dashing young David Attenborough from 1973. You can subscribe to the calendar to get instalments via email.

Gold star: Great use of a very rich archive.

National Library of Scotland's penguin adventures

National Library of Scotland are bringing their collection to life through the adventures of penguins #FlurryandFloe. Each day, now that they have their library cards, we see them on tour round the library seeing items from the collection. Where will they go next, what will they see?!

Gold star: Creative and cute! Written with humour and images to match. Festive joy.

More calendars

Want more? Here’s the full storify of digital advent calendars 2017, packed with great festive comms.

Seen any others? Let me know and I’ll add them.

 

See also: Nonprofit digital advent calendars – a round-up of tips and examples

 

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#GivingTuesday 2017

Now in its fourth year in the UK, #GivingTuesday is a chance for charities large and small to ask, thank and share news of the difference they make. It is the antidote to #BlackFriday and #CyberMonday (all of which seem to last much longer than a single day).

Here are some great Twitter examples from this year’s day.

BT image from the London BT Tower scrolling #GivingTuesday video

Short and simple

#GivingTuesday is a hugely busy hashtag (trending across the world on the day) so there is a lot of competition. On all channels, a simple, eye-catching ask stands out.

The standard digital fundraising rules apply – cater to short attention spans, make donating time or money easy to do and pleasurable and give a reward.

Dogs Trust - 4 ways to give + silly dog video

This tweet from Dogs Trust ticks all the boxes. It clearly lists four ways to give support, it uses eye-catching emojis and readable / edited bit.ly links plus a bonus video of a dog rolling in the grass!

"It’s #givingtuesday at LSE! We have four ways in which you can give."

Similarly, LSE student volunteer centre shared four images on Twitter along with four actions.

  • Independent Age clearly listed their text giving options
  • Crisis showed what someone who attends Crisis at Christmas receives
  • Lumos produced a simple animation of five words which explain what they do
  • Refuge were asking people to buy a Christmas dinner parcel for £5
  • Breakfast in a Bag simply asked for £3 donations.

Giving thanks

#GivingTuesday is as much a chance to say thank you as it is to ask. It is an opportunity to celebrate all your amazing fundraisers, donors, campaigners and volunteers. Personal thanks or general thanks work well.

Help for Heroes thank you video

Help for Heroes produced this lovely video to thank their fundraisers, volunteers, supporters and partners. It means more as it is a face-to-face thanks from the people whose lives have been helped by the charity.

The British Heart Foundation are expert producers of thank you gifs and images. Their feed is full of great thank you images like this one.

Marie Curie's hand drawn thanks for supporter Michelle

Marie Curie produced hand-drawn doodles for a selection of their supporters to say thank you.

There are lots more examples of how large and small charities used #GivingTuesday to say thank you (ZurichVolSec)

Taking full advantage

For one day only, Facebook matched donations made via their native giving tool (not those made by clicking a donation button on the platform which links elsewhere).

This tweet from Winston’s Wish explains the ask. A link to the Facebook page would have helped to encourage supporters to shift platform.

Winston's Wish FB ask

Selected Big Give charities are part of their Christmas Challenge which launched at midday on #GivingTuesday. The 500 organisations lucky enough to be included are benefitting from doubled-donations to their listed projects. In the first five minutes, half a million pounds were raised!

ChildhoodTrust - Cats Vs Kids campaign

Eye-catching campaigns like Cats Vs Kids from The Childhood Trust, aim to inspire new supporters as well as current ones through #GivingTuesday and the #ChristmasChallenge17.

CAF were offering to add a bonus £100 to a £10 donation for individuals opening a new account before 30 November.

Action on Hearing Loss Scotland devoted the whole day to share stories of amazing fundraisers, achievements, future events and their #earringforhearing campaign.

Using targets

The Myton Hospices

The Myton Hospices were aiming for a Christmas miracle, raising £3220 in 24 hours, enough to pay for an inpatient bed for one week. Through persistent tweeting, a thunderclap and rallying of their supporters, they smashed their target! Throughout the day, they updated supporters with a total. (Read more about their campaign in my JustGiving post on #GivingTuesday highlights.)

Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust‘s campaign aimed to raise enough money to plant 100 trees.

(NB Toilet Twinning are really good at sharing regular News Flush updates with a running total on World Toilet Day, pinning the latest total as a top tweet on the day.)

Being creative

#GivingTuesday is a great opportunity to break all the rules, produce something special and have fun.

Southmead Hospital Charity video - Giving Back this #GivingTuesday

Southmead Hospital Charity produced a charming video which explained how a £5 donation would help.

Didn’t get involved this year?

UK Fundraising reported that almost 2000 partner charities and businesses joined in with #GivingTuesday this year. CAF shared stats on the reach of the day, including an impressive 383million impressions on Twitter. And CAF’s press release said that the hashtag was trending on Twitter in the UK from 8.30am to 5.30pm. Blackbaud shared data too including that 26% of online donations were made via mobile.

The #GivingTuesday hashtag was used in over 150 countries on the day.

If you didn’t get involved this year, make sure it is on your calendar for 2018 – 27 November. And think about how you can make your comms stand out from the crowd.

What did you spot?

Share your favourite #GivingTuesday examples from Twitter or other channels here. I’d love to see them.

I also shared my top three highlights from the day in this JustGiving post.

It’s interesting to see how the comms have evolved since #GivingTuesday launched in the UK in 2014. Here’s my storify with examples from the first year.

 

See also: 10 tips for great online legacy fundraising

WrapUp London

WrapUp London, now in its seventh year, is a call to action. It invites Londoners to clear out their old coats, take them to drop off points from where they will be sorted and distributed to partner charities who work with homeless people, older people, refugees and women’s refuges. This year I volunteered for two out of the three drop off days at Liverpool Street Station. It was tiring but brilliant work. Usually I work at home, mostly liaising with colleagues and clients by phone or email. This was a chance to talk to people face-to-face and be in the thick of something brilliant.

On Tuesday we filled 49 giant sacks with donations. Each sack took between 10-20 coats. Today we filled 89, plus two suitcases! In total the good people of Liverpool Street and Broadgate donated men’s, women’s and children’s coats filling 154 sacks over the three days.

View into Liverpool Street Underground Station from upper concourse

Here’s why it works.

Clear branding and marketing

Wrap Up London – the name is beautifully clear, strong and emotive.

Clever marketing used red coats on London prominent statues which was eye-catching and simple. Amy Winehouse’s statue in Camden wore a red coat and branding on the banners included Nelson in a dashing red puffer jacket.

Of course, there were still people who hadn’t heard of the campaign (and those who weren’t interested) despite awareness raising in the run up to the collection days on social media and leafleting. But there were enough that did and many who had been looking out for the campaign after they had donated in 2016.

Clear action

Get rid of your old coat and it will be given directly to someone who needs it.

This simple transaction is motivating. It helps the donor to clear something they don’t want any more and they can imagine the person who might benefit from it instead. It is a simple ‘from me to you’ without any cost to the donor and a streamlined, well organised process to drive it.

Most people have an old coat somewhere – maybe a child’s coat grown out of or an impulse buy. There are some who are moved on the day to donate. One woman actually took her coat off and gave it to us (and then came back to retrieve her train ticket from its pocket!)

However, although it is a simple ask, the process of donating for most isn’t without effort. It will be time-consuming to find the coats, put them in a strong bag and it will take effort to remember to pick them up on the way in to work, then lug them on a squashed-in commute, and potentially modify their journey to pass by a drop-off point. It is precisely all this effort which makes it meaningful.

Some people go the extra mile. For example, some had specifically washed or dry cleaned their coats before handing them over. Many gave large donations of heavy and bulky items, some delivered them in suitcases which they then took onwards, empty. There were some people who bought donations every day. Some had travelled a long way or in difficult circumstances (including several people on crutches).  The highlight of my Wednesday was the stars from Spitalfields City Farm who delivered several bin bags and boxes of coats via three wheelbarrows which they’d pushed all the way from the other side of Brick Lane!

What struck me most was the urge people had to donate, to do something positive, something lots of other people were doing at the same time.  The kindness and enthusiasm was reassuring and wonderful.

Volume

This is a London-wide event, now firmly in the calendar. There are six tube collection points (at the major train stations – London Bridge, King’s Cross, Waterloo, Victoria, Liverpool Street plus Canary Wharf – with thousands of people passing through) open for three days, all staffed by volunteers plus drop-off points at Safestores for longer.

Many of the people donating today came with bin bags full of coats which were a collective donation from their office. It was something they could do together as no cost.

Thanks and encouragement

Donors of course felt good about what they had done. The transactional process of handing over a bag was met with smiles, thank you’s, chat, selfies and a cool sticker. Sometimes it was quick as people were rushing off to work or to get a train. Other times people stayed to talk.

People were also being thanked on social media by individual volunteers and @WrapUpLondon using #WrapUpLondon and #HandsOnHeroes. The energy of the campaign was infectious especially through the three days of the tube collection.

I wrapped up London stickers

It was brilliant. I thoroughly recommend volunteering next year if you get a chance (you can volunteer from 7-9 so still get to work on time) or taking part in other similar events. I can’t wait to hear how many sacks each of the locations collected and whether donations beat last year’s total and the difference they make.

In these miserable times, it was wonderful to see kindness and generosity first-hand and to see people doing something practical to help others.

Do can do something positive

You can still get involved – donation points are open until 24 November or you can text donations to 70070.

See also: WrapUp Manchester which happened at the same time. Here is a Moment from their day 2.

Think about how you could apply these principles to your fundraising or campaign.

If you want to galvanise collective giving, why not run a reverse advent calendar in the run up to Christmas.

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.

Digital round-up – June

So many huge things happened in June. The Manchester One Love concert raised £2m in three hours, dogs in polling stations had its own emoji thanks to Twitter and Dogs Trust, the awful events in Kensington and Finsbury Park and the wonderful Great Get Togethers. It was also a bumper month for good reads and interesting charity content. Here’s my round-up.

Photo of a fairground carousel

Digital culture

What a digital organisation looks like by Janet Hughes from doteveryone is a really useful 10 minute read about the characteristics of a digital organisation and its leaders.

5 aspects of a digital organisation

Good writing

Website content

Charity Comms tweet promoting Crisis blog post

Strategies

Nice content

lollies made with polluted water in Taiwan

For Small Charity Week I found some examples of brilliant small charities doing interesting fundraising. From wishlists to live crowdfunding, see five fundraising ideas for small charities.

And finally….

What did you read / write / enjoy this month?

How to share lived experiences using #rocur or Twitter take overs

Hearing someone’s story firsthand can build empathy, a sense of community and crush stereotypes or assumptions. But in a noisy world, how can we as charities get those voices heard?

Finding ways for people to engage with real experience is key. More charities are trying rocur (rotation curation) or media take overs. Find out how they could work for you.

colourful children's drawings of faces

Hearing lived experience

We’ve talked before about empathy and the power of stories (following Jude Habib’s amazing Being the Story event in 2016). Last week at the Social Media Exchange Lemn Sissay argued that charities shouldn’t be working to ‘give children a voice’ as they have voices already. Rather we should be working to find ways for their voices to be heard.

This idea was explored more deeply by Gemma Pettman in her blog post following the event in which she included reflections about the Expert Citizens programme.

We may feel like we are working hard to get the voices out there but your case study or a video probably isn’t doing this. As editors we are applying our own filters and key messages to these stories. Of course as comms professionals, we might feel like we know what makes a good story and we want to streamline the story so it ticks our boxes (we don’t want any other causes or issues getting in the way). But this isn’t the way people work.

It might feel scary or dangerous but how can we create a platform which we can hand over to the people we represent? Some charities are doing this through their blog or vlog. For example Mind invites anyone to contribute. Others are using social media to share user-generated content. For example read about Anthony Nolan’s Facebook content strategy.

To actually hand the keys over to the channels is another level, with no editorial control! Here we look at some examples.

Rocur (or rotation curation)

According to wikipedia, rotation curation started on Twitter in 2011 with the @sweden account. Rocur accounts are usually managed on a weekly basis with each new person sharing details of their lives. An administrator manages the account, ensuring every week is covered.

The Sweden account (which itself says it started in 2009) is still going strong and has 104k followers. There are now many other location-based accounts including @LondonisYours, @WeAreXPats and HI_Voices.

In October 2016, the nhs account launched with Richard who shared his experience of living with cancer. The account is ‘manned’ by staff, trainees and patients and already has 10.6k followers. It is used from 8am-8pm, Monday to Thursday and from 8am-6pm on Friday.

text says: @NHS aims to celebrate the NHS by bringing to life the stories of staff and patients through their own words. To highlight the amazing stories that happen every day and the people involved. @NHS enables people with an NHS story to tell to share their experiences.

This account works so well because it is well curated with different voices each week. The weekly host tends to share a lot of personal information and they respond to questions and treat it as a conversation. It feels like followers are genuinely learning about someone’s job or condition from reading the tweets. Read more about the @nhs account.

In a similar vein, @Parkinsons52 is used by people who have experience of Parkinson’s. The account has been live since February 2016. It has been hosted by patients experiencing varying stages of the disease from across the world as well as health care professionals and staff from Parkinson’s UK including CEO Steve Ford. It was set up by David Sangster who saw it as a way to connect the Parkinson’s community, raise awareness and to show how the disease can affect people of all ages and backgrounds.

tweets from Parkinsons52

Take overs

Less of a committment is to host a social media take over, where someone outside of the comms team uses the account for a short time. This is generally less about lived experience and more about giving an alternative insight or perspective. Museums are good at doing this such as with their ask the curator sessions.

Kids in Museums drive an annual day where museums let children take over. Some organisations do this by letting young people use their social media accounts to share their experiences of the museum. The Teen Twitter Takeover is in August and there are useful factsheets about how to let teenagers tweet from the museum account. The guide says that the biggest benefit is that the teenagers feel really trusted to be allowed to do this. Read more about Take Over Day.

Take over day tweet from Helston Museum

Each year local government joins in with #OurDay. This is more managed than a take over but gives an opportuity for councils to share the stories of employees and locals who use services. Through the social media activity they can show the detail and breadth of what they do. See this Moment of #OurDay in 2016 for some examples.

Could it work for you?

If one of your goals is to raise awareness, then somewhere within your comms strategy should be a way to show rather than tell.  Finding simple ways to build understanding and empathy is key.

These examples are all about showing the detail of something, the everyday impact of a condition or situation. It is the detail which connects us. And it is the detail which is often missed in our corporate comms where we are often trying to show the bigger picture to make a point.

Giving a platform in this way can be daunting. Some of the barriers could be:

  • “it sounds too time consuming to administer and monitor”
  • “we don’t have access to a big bank of potential people who could contribute”
  • “we have a duty of care for children or vulnerable people – what if people ask probing questions or they get trolled?”
  • “is it really worth it – will people listen or engage? Will it actually change anyone’s minds?”
  • “our community has low IT skills or limited access to tech.”

A good plan, policy and support are key. Be realistic about what you can take on. You don’t have to sign yourself up to a year-long stint of weekly hosts. It is ok to take a pause. Why not start small, an hour on the first Friday of every month or a pilot project?

Of course, this method will not work for every cause and will be out of reach for many small charities. But as the examples show, they don’t have to be owned by a charity. Parkinsons52 works so well because it is about the disease rather than about the charity. PUK are occasionally involved but they don’t own or manage it.

For contributors it can be a real opportunity to share their experience and feel like they are helping other people to understand. It can be empowering. It can be a way of connecting with others in a similar situation.

If there are accounts out there related to your cause why not support them, promote them and even contribute to them?

Tips for recruiting and managing contributors

  • Recruit a good mix of volunteers to help you get started. This will also help to establish the tone. Think about people who have interesting stories or ideas and who are used to using social media. Once the account gets going, think about how you’ll find new people to contribute. Make it easy for them to sign up and keep good records of who has contributed and who is to come to make sure you have a good mix.
  • Produce tips and guidelines to give to contributors. Include an idea about how often to tweet (5 times a day is achievable for most) and best times of day to get a conversation. Be very clear about your posting guidelines (eg no obscene, offensive or self-promoting material) and what contributors can do (such as unfollowing or DMing people).
  • Provide instructions for the practicalities of using the account such as the handover between people and logging in. Will you change the password each time a new person uses the account?
  • Help your next contributor to prepare for their time. Ask them to think about what they do and don’t want to tweet about, what questions they will ask to prompt conversations and how they’ll deal with people they disagree with. Help them to think about a ‘message’ they’d like people to go away with at the end of their week if this is relevant. It is also useful to help them prepare for the lull days in the middle of their stint. Polls can be a good way to drive interaction. As can photos.
  • Be ready to step in if they need support. It can take a brave person to put themselves out there (especially on mega accounts like @nhs). You should also do some thinking about the things that could go wrong and have strategies in place to deal with these.
  • At the end of their time, think about how to support them – it can be hard to get used to normal life after having so many people listening and talking to you!

Tips for getting the most out of the content

  • Pin a welcome message for the new account holder so your followers can understand what is going on.
  • Personalise the avatar and username – the nhs account do this really well.
  • Curate the best tweets from the event or week. For example take a look at the @nhs Moment from Yvonne’s week and the full list of @nhs Moments. Think about how to showcase these on other channels.
  • Prime some friends, colleagues or family to ask questions to get the conversation going, especially as the account gets established.

screenshot from @nhs account

Share your examples

Have you seen any other good (or bad) examples of rocur or take overs? Are there any other charity or public sector examples? Do share them here.

If you are looking to experience a take over firsthand to get a feel for how it works, accounts like @LondonIsYours are always looking for new contributors. Why not see if there is an account you can contribute to?

With thanks

Big thanks to rocur users Leah Williams Veazey and David Sangster who shared their experiences for this post.

Images on social media

Images are crucial to social media. This post looks at how charities can use images to grab attention or tell their stories. It uses lots of examples from Twitter but many of the rules also apply to Facebook

Just two years ago, images were a nice-to-have. Now they are a must-have to grab attention. This screenshot from my Twitter feed shows the difference. In 2014 in a random sample, just one tweet out of nine has an image. In 2016, four out of five, does.

Twitter in 2014 = one tweet with an image out of 8. Twitter 2016 = 5 tweets, 4 with images

Personally I used to scroll through tweets sifting by account. Now I primarily sift by images. Images have to be eye-catching and engaging to make me stop and read. But, what makes a good image?

Images which tell a story

L-R Maurice at St Paul's, Toilet Twinning donations jar, Rio's life-saving heart transplant

Images can tell a story themselves or can be a gateway into a story – a hook to get the reader’s interest. For example, the image of 101-year old volunteer Maurice at St Paul’s Cathedral makes you want to read his story. The image from Toilet Twinning of a jar of coins is intreging, it makes you ask questions about how much they are trying to raise and how. This BHF image of Rio following his life-saving heart transplant shows him in hospital surrounded by medical equipment and with a breathing tube. Each is a powerful image, hooking us in to want to read more.

Images which are cute / beautiful

L-R Blue Cross ginea pigs, National Trust property with 2100 likes on FB, Royal Academy #imageoftheday

Images are like a reward, they can brighten someone’s day. Social media is made to share cute or beautiful images.

Unsurprisingly, animal charities such as Blue Cross, share lots of cute images. These are rewards for people who love guinea pigs / cats / hedgehogs etc. The images are useful to illustrate messages about rehoming and general education about animals. Images are also crucial to support social media fundraising. See this tweet from the Barn Owl Trust – awww.

Many museums and galleries share items from their collections via social media. For example, the East London Group and the Royal Academy connect with their followers with an #imageoftheday often connecting this with something that is topical. Heritage organisations are great at using images of their properties. The National Trust share their amazing collection of photos brilliantly on Facebook and get a high level of interaction.

You don’t have to be the National Trust to share beautiful pictures. Do you have a garden or view to share (see tweets from Canal and River Trust or Lewis-Manning Hospice)? Are you having a cake sale (see Maternal Worldwide’s Muffins for Midwives campaign)? Think about what is cute or beautiful in your organisation.

Images which are fun

Fun images are harder to get right as humour is very subjective and hard to translate through technology. You can be creative, playful, topical and fun but only if it is relevant and appropriate for your brand and audience. Take a look at Give Blood’s recent use of emojis or YoungScot’s use of animated gifs.

L-R Bill Bailey with an owl on his head, St John's tips for Jon Snow, Dave the Worm enjoying his breakfast

Images can be fun because the people in them are having fun (think fundraising or volunteering activities) or include notoriously fun people (see this tweet of Bill Bailey with an owl on his head from the Barn Owl Trust).

Images can also be fun because they join in with something lots of people are talking about. Memes, TV shows, the weather, news stories can all be used to join in with existing fun. See St John Ambulance’s first aid tips for Game of Thrones characters.

Organisations sometimes create an alter-ego for their brand which can do the fun stuff. Examples of this are RSPB’s Vote for Bob and Dave The Worm from Parkinson’s UK.

Images which are shocking

Images can be shocking because they show things we wouldn’t usually see (such as Dr Kate Granger’s moving deathbed tweets).  Or because they show a truly shocking situation (think of the images of the young Syrian boy Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach in September 2015). Images which are shocking may provoke feelings of disgust, anger or sadness. However, reactions may vary; it can be difficult to predict where an image goes too far (think of the backlash against Barnado’s adverts in 2000).

Whether you use shocking images depends on your cause and what you are trying to achieve. Remember that you have a duty of care. Images don’t need to be graphic to have impact.

Think about your audience and what they will tolerate. Think about what you are trying to achieve, what action you are trying to prompt. Think about balance. If your subject matter is only ever shocking, how can you illustrate it in a sensitive but impactful way which brings people in to find out more?

L-R Oxfam, Greenpeace, Brain Injury Hub

  • Sometimes text can add impact to an image. This example from Oxfam International shows a beautiful image of a Burundian mother and child with the words ‘A refugee is a person who doesn’t have any options’.
  • This Greenpeace campaign about the recycle-ability of disposable coffee cups uses images of Caffe Nero, Costa and Starbucks cups with a shocking fact (7 million coffee cups are used per day in the UK. 1% are recycled).
  • An image can be shocking without being obviously sad. This example from The Brain Injury Hub shows toddler Harmonie-Rose who had meningitis playing with her dolls.
  • This image shared by Aspire is a still from a Channel 4 news item. It shows a man cutting food with a sharp knife using his prosthetic hand.

Images which give information

Effective images can also be ones which give infomation or are just interesting. This could be a photo of something which helps someone to understand a situation or topic (such as this tweet from Thames21 showing microbeads), or an image which illustrates data (see using graphics to illustrate data on social media for lots of examples) or illustrates text (such as Mind’s series of quotes).

L-R Thames 21 fingertip showing microbeads, Mind quote (I have many separate distinct and unique 'parts' of my personality), GoodGym runners

Information pictures also play an important role in inspiring people to get involved. Images of people doing fundraising or volunteering can inspire other people to do the same (‘there’s a picture of people running, they look like me and like they are having a good time, I could do it too’). This example from GoodGym is great as it shows runners in bright T-shirts running along a street, smiling!

Your image strategy

An image strategy may be an over-inflated term but it is important to spend some time thinking about and documenting how you will use images.

  • Do your images fit into the categories above? They can of course just be window-dressing, there to look pretty or eye-catching (see this tweet from MindApples).
  • Do you have something in your housestyle or brand guidelines about the types of images you use? What about your social media or content strategy?
  • Do you have a different style for social media or do you use the same image for the same story across all your channels?
  • Do you use an image for every tweet or post or just when you have something appropriate ready to use? What is your policy?

What thinking or analysis have you done about images? It is worth testing out what style actually works for you and on what channels. What works on Facebook might not necessarily work on Twitter. And what works on these ‘news’ channels might be different than what works on other types of social channels such as Instagram. Don’t assume that your audience are the same.

Spend some time testing out different techniques and using the analytics within Twitter and Facebook to find out the impact / level of interaction.

The rules

Images are very subjective. What appeals to one person, might not work for another. Whether you are taking the picture yourself or are choosing from your image library, there are some basic rules which apply.

  • Don’t use pictures which are unclear or blurry or dark – on social media you have seconds to get your message across or to attract attention. Images need to be instantly appealing with strong contrasting colours (like this RNIB tweet of a bright green broccoli in a red colander). If you only have poor quality images, why not make them into a collage to make them more interesting. This this collage from Muffins for Midwives which tells more of a story than a single image.
  • Don’t use images which are cluttered or hard to understand – photograph your subjects on a plain background if possible. Your tweets and posts will be looked at on all kinds of devices and may appear very small. Sometimes this rule can be broken if the background tells a story. For example, the BHF image of Rio above or this image from the Trussell Trust of a big group of children in a warehouse.
  • Avoid pictures which are too complicated or badly cropped – these can lose meaning. Strangely cropped images may attract attention but might just be too wacky (see MyCommunity’s spade image).
  • Don’t be boring – do you really have to use that giant donation cheque image?! (Just do a search for ‘charity cheques’ to see how universally boring these are.) Of course it can be politic to take a cheque photo but does it really work on social media? There are lots of ways of showing a fundraising total without having to show the dreaded cheque / handshake (see this press release about JD Wetherspoon’s CLIC Sargent fundraising which shows the total in giant golden balloons or this big thank you from SeeAbility).

Google search for 'charity cheques'

>>See more about cheques in this newer post – Say no to GIANT cheque pictures

Remember also, that not everyone following your social media channels will be able to see your images. Twitter and Facebook do now have some accessibility features, although on Twitter it is applied manually and only via apps. Unless you use alt text, avoid using an image on its own. Instead include meaningful text about what the image is showing and ideally a link for more information (the Mind tweet above is a good example of this).

Checklist

  • Do you know what is right for your cause / brand / audience / channel?
  • What is your image policy and style?
  • Do your images follow the rules of good pictures?
  • Do you use images which tell a story?
  • Are your images cute / beautiful?
  • Are your images fun – do you use humour or respond to topical stories or memes?
  • Do you use images which are shocking?
  • Do your images give information?
  • Are they just window-dressing?
  • Are you using images accessibly?

Bottom-line is, don’t be boring!

Experiment, be creative and involve the team to take new images. Use analytics to check what is working. Find your image style.

Further reading

See also, my previous posts on using graphics to illustrate data on social media and how to illustrate difficult causes and subjects. Also, my chapter on images in the Charity Social Media Toolkit on the SkillsPlatform.

Do you agree?

When have you broken the rules and it has worked? Do you have a style guide for images? How do you manage your images and how they are used? What images have you seen or used recently?

Please do share your experience and examples by adding a comment. I’d love to hear from you.