mayo 20, 2010

How NGOs can use the images that Photographers produce! (5 ideas)


"The Iraqi Girl and the Center"
© Heber Vega | Iraqi girl sitting outside of an International NGO's center.

[May 20, 2010]

Have you visited any NGOs websites lately? What about other non-profit organizations? Have you found anything interesting? Aesthetically pleasing? How about their photographs? Do you think the non-profits are really putting their voice/cause out there in a way that causes you to engage only with visiting their website? Do you think that’s necessary for them nowadays?

We all know that NGOs, non-profits, and charities, are important, not because of what they can display on their website, but for what they can do on the “field”. There’s where the need is, isn’t it? Correct me if I’m wrong, but if the voice of that cause is not getting out, how is it going to last? What’s going to happen with what they have built?

Jeremy Courtney, CEO from the Preemptive Love Coalition, a non-profit organization working in Iraq, had some comments about this issue in our first 10.Q Interviews. He said some things that were Spot On. Let me share a few of them:

“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

“Many NGOs don’t necessarily know what to DO with an image that they value immensely so that it will bring about a monetary return that will justify having spent hard-earned donor dollars on the photographer/image.

…not knowing how to leverage a phenomenal photo into funding for the people we exist to serve. Many organizations have great photos on their hard drives. Big deal. If an NGO doesn’t have someone dedicated to marshaling photographic fodder into a targeted message and call to action, then the NGO is no better off for having paid for (or simply snapped themselves) the highly impact-full photo.

So let me go out on a limb here for this photographic community. If you want smaller NGOs to pay for your services as a photographer, I’d guess many, if not most would be more willing to invest in the photographer who can help us take the beautiful image after all is said and done and leverage that photo into funding. The photographer with the biggest social network, direct mail list, blog following, and the best strategies to help me do that is the photographer who gets my organizational money.” [read more on Jeremy’s comments]

Motivated by these words, today I want to speak to the NGOs, charities, and non-profits and give them some ideas on what to do with good photographs. How they can improve/boost their marketing by using good imagery. Please, photographers, feel free to borrow these ideas and present them to your clients. We can all benefit by doing this, can’t we?

First of all, I want to thank some photographers that have shared ideas and thoughts, on how to promote the work of NGOs through photography, by doing that we hope NGOs would be more open to hire good photographers. These ideas have been tested and they have worked!. Thanks to: Gary S. Chapman, Matt Powell, Mario Mattei, and Karl Grobl. These guys responded to an Open Letter that I wrote for NGOs and Humanitarian Photographers.

So let me give you some ideas. Let’s start.

Idea number 1: Start a photo blog and try to publish big photos.

You can share what the Boston Globe has done to share the latest news through only and most exclusively, photography! It’s called The Big Picture. Gary S. Chapman commented that he has challenged those organizations to track the website stats for a few moths to see if the well-tagged and captioned images don’t bring in additional traffic to their main site. He added: “Consistent blogs that are well crafted ALWAYS bring more traffic.”

Idea number 2: Go for Brochures!

Not a new idea, is it? But, what if this time we make it with good images; images that can captivate the viewer and make the people actually read the brochure. You can describe the benefits, services, donation opportunities, and values of their organization. Karl Grobl said, “Brochures are probably not cheap to produce, so it makes sense that if you spend lots of money on brochures, you really need good high quality images.”

Idea number 3: Make an Event,

An exhibit or art gallery per se. Gather all the important people that you want to support your wonderful initiative, and amaze them with a good photo essay projected on the wall. Have prints hanging everywhere, with a video and photography that can summarize what you do on the field. Invite the photographer behind the shots, so that he also invites his own fans to participate on your initiative. Invite the press don’t forget about them!

Karl Grobl told me: “Remember Compelling imagery is powerful… Do you remember Steve McCurry’s Afghan girl? That single photo raised millions of dollars. Here’s a quote from National Geo, “As soon as people saw the story, they asked what they could do to help. National Geographic put up money and matched the funds that were sent in. We’ve raised, I think, more than a million and a half dollars for the cause so far.” You see, a picture is worth a million words, and perhaps a million dollars!”

Idea number 4: Tell Stories! According to successful humanitarian photographers, “It all comes down to story, not pictures. Putting pictures ahead of a good plan can be wasteful. Great pictures aren’t enough. What story are you telling? Who are you telling it to? Does it speak well to that audience? Then, what are you asking them to do?” Think about creative ways to tell your stories, to let the people know why is so that your cause is so important.

Idea number 5: Make a Book! Nobody would reject a nice looking coffee-table book. At least I won’t! These books are very popular and people don’t get tired of buying them. There main purpose is decoration, so try to make multiples designs, colors, textures, stories, etc. At the moment, I’m working for a client and helping them to create their first book. It’s not about their project, but the people they work with. I’m planning to travel to the locations where they currently work and shoot portraits of the people there. You see, nothing fancy, but always compelling to see!

Those are just some ideas to keep you busy for a while.  I will try to post others in the coming weeks or maybe some other topics that can help to promote your world-saving initiative. Your work deserves the best, so please invest in it. Hire a good and smart photographer who can help you to meet your vision.

““If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

One last thing – don’t underestimate social media. Bring people around through social media, and then people will hear when your tree falls.


[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Russ Kirby and Heber Vega, heber vega. heber vega said: Just Blogged! "How NGOs can use the images that Photographers produce! (5 ideas)" [...]
Wayne Rowe 09:07 mayo 20, 2010 Responder
Sorry I wasn't able to respond to your email in time Heber. I'd just go along with what the other guys have said, especially regarding storytelling. Clients need to be able to take your images and use them to tell a story which conveys the situation they're working in and the impact they're making in changing lives. Although this article is aimed at Non profit organisations, I'd also suggest to would-be photographers out there to learn journalistic skills and take notes of the stories you find as you're in the field. If you are able to piece together a complete narrated photo story which can be presented to the client, you may be saving them a significant amount of work and you've added something else to your service offering. Wayne
Serge Van Cauwenbergh 13:18 mayo 20, 2010 Responder
An interesting list you compiled here and recognizable at the same time. I co-operated with a small humanitarian organisation lately and I noticed that they don't have a clue how to use social media, website, blog, etc to raise more attention to their project. The organisation I worked for has a lousy website and I made a proposal to create a new website build around the Wordpress blog software that allows them to show pictures more often, to tell stories and to update the news. In my opinion, all of these elements increases the interest and awareness with the audience.
Ed 00:09 mayo 21, 2010 Responder
Heber, thanks for a great post. It really coalesced some ideas that are practical and relatively easy to follow through on if you have the supporting staff/structure to provide anything else that is necessary e.g. event planning. Wayne, you make a great point also; notes, through recordings or writings, would make an excellent addition.
Are NGOs exceptions? 16:46 mayo 22, 2010 Responder
[...] And this are in fact great arguments, and I totally agree with them. But. Just take a look at this blog post to see how important it is for NGOs to have in hands good quality images, which they may not [...]
Krista Photography 20:15 mayo 25, 2010 Responder
This is awesome, Heber! I've photographed for organizations in the past and been so frustrated when they didn't actually use the images to their advantage. At the time, I couldn't put in the energy/time, and didn't really know how to do it for them. I'll have to save this link for organizations I work with in the future!
    JohnPierre 01:56 junio 7, 2010 Responder
    krista, sometimes, we NGOs lacks the marketing strategy and IT tools to use whatever we got for our advantage.
heber vega 20:01 mayo 28, 2010 Responder
@Wayne @Serge @Ed and @Krista. I'm back after a week or so away from this Blog. Sorry I couldn't reply you sooner. @Wayne, I agree we need to learn journalistic skills, that's one of the most needed "features" in this field. @Serge, happy to see that you are able to influence NGOs about photography and presence in Internet. They will see good results if they persist. @Ed, You are welcome! @Krista, As I said before I think we have to start playing a more "wider" roll with the NGOs that we work for. They need our experience, so list like this will help them a lot.
Dommie Yambo 19:42 mayo 31, 2010 Responder
these were such great suggestion and I am kicking myself in the foot why we had not thought of it. We are a media non-profit organisation here in Nairobi, Kenya and we have tone of images (stills and video) and honestly thank you for your generosity in sharing this idea. best, Dommie
    heber vega 22:29 mayo 31, 2010 Responder
    You are most welcome Dommie! I hope this blog can help to develop the vision of your work. Thanks for the comment. Heber.
    Galimuty.Devaprasad 16:10 agosto 25, 2010 Responder
    I am a pastor and we are runnung here 1 organsation that is Foundation for Education and Economic Development (FEED) And we are helping for poor people and some orphans,childerns If those who are nintrested to Donate for my organasation please contact me. I am from Darsi Prakasam District Andhra pradesh,India?
BATAMBUZE PAUL 18:29 junio 1, 2010 Responder
Its very important to know this secret. Personally I have been trying to get a way how others could know our organization but all has been in vain. Am going to try it out and see the results.
Surely this is a wonderful idea. I have been working on peace in cattle raiding pastoralist communities in three Eastern African countries and known of the affected countries is supporting this noble idea which has saved many lives. This will help save this situation Titus
This is a wonderful idea Titus
Ibrahim A. Ganiyu Bantinkpa 13:07 junio 7, 2010 Responder
Please I deem it pleasure to get in-touch with your outfit regarding what assistance could I obtain from your project which is of relevant to projecting out efforts small scale NGOs in developing countries like Ghana particularly Norther Region of Ghana where I work with Wuni Zaligu Development Association (WUZDA)a local base NGO facilitating development processes in remote and among marginalized groups.It has been challenging to get stories and photos taken on platforms for attentions that will help address concerns of lives of vulnerable and marginalized groups. Your project has indeed inspired me follow suit, but the know-how if the question or challenging. In view of this, I request that if you could help my organization out as to processes which would lead to raising fund out of activities and projects or the organization. Counting on your usual cooperation, we hope that due attention would be given this request. Best regard Ibrahim A.Ganiyu Bantinkpa Project Coordinator
    heber vega 20:36 junio 7, 2010 Responder
    Hi Ibrahim, Please, for any inquire about your NGO, just send me an email, and I will try to help. I hope that helps, Heber.
Ketaki Bardalai 09:43 junio 8, 2010 Responder
Hi. Thanks for the suggestions. Indeed they are very useful. We work with partners ( other NGOs and individuals)to promote civil society work in the North East region of India. Our mantra is 'enabling north east india'. We have been talking about this to our partners too, many of whom find it difficult to write long reports and we would like to encourage them to use photographs and video documentation more effectively. On our part too, we have tentatively launched a facebook profile and a blog too. Need to improve our skills and use all this for scaling up visibility of our and our partners' work and mobilise resources to sustain our efforts into the future. Ketaki
    heber vega 09:38 agosto 26, 2010 Responder
    Hi Ketaki. Thanks for leaving us a comment. In my experience all the NGOs/Non-profits that are investing resources, time, money on advertising their cause, are also getting a good feedback from donors and people in general. I also have to clarify that you can reach out also people within India, and not necessary wait on foreign help. I encourage you to collect a good amount of photography and videos and put them out there, and contact people personally. If your cause is worth, people will support it, no doubt on that. Thanks again.
[...] How NGOs can use the images that Photographers produce! (5 ideas for marketing) | Humanitarian &.... Posted in [...]
Ibrahim A Ganiyu Bantinkpa 20:10 agosto 25, 2010 Responder
Please could you help me as how one can create a blog on social networks and it's management so that information put out there will attract friends and visitors to story it carries.Also how to generate discussion and invitation process to one's link on the blogs or networks. Best regards
    heber vega 09:42 agosto 26, 2010 Responder
    Ibrahim, as I said before, you can send me an email to "contact(at)hebervega(dot)com" and we can talk about all this. I'll be waiting for your email. Thanks again.
tomas halasz 05:48 septiembre 12, 2013 Responder
Thanks for the blog. Is one of my resources on research I do about how to use photography for NGOs fundraising. If you have any more tips, links, ideas or data it would be appreciated. Many thanks

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