The Power of a Picture for Raising Funds

The Power of a Picture for Raising Funds

“Over 6 million children in the U.S. go hungry. Your gift now will help us eradicate hunger!”

Which picture would you attach to the above appeal? Would it matter? A new study by Infinity Concepts | Grey Matter Research entitled RACE & GENDER IN FUNDRAISING: EXPLORING POTENTIAL BIAS AMONG EVANGELICALS gives an answer. It’s the basis for this Coach entitled The Power of a Picture for Raising Funds.

Get a story, work your story, tell your story, and people will give you money to support your story. That is one of my main Brooks Mantras for raising funds. The easiest way to gain new donors and motivate existing donors is through stories of life change. But the question is, what kind of picture best touches a donor’s heart? That is the topic of the Grey Matter Research. They showed various groups pictures and asked how they impacted those viewing them. Here is a direct quote from the study.

“Is a little girl in need more likely to tug at your heartstrings than a little boy? Are you more likely to give to help a child of your own race or ethnicity? These questions may seem difficult, maybe even offensive. A hurting person is a hurting person, regardless of race, ethnicity, or gender. We are all equally valuable to God.

But human nature often dictates that no matter how hard we may try, it is possible to be swayed by factors that should not make a difference. And this does not even take into consideration people with willful biases.

How does the race/ethnicity and gender of a child, portrayed in a ministry appeal, impact potential evangelical donors?”1.

The report summarizes the answer with two big things. “BIG THING #1 The first is that evangelicals do not find pictures of children of their own race or ethnicity more compelling than pictures of other races. Nor do they find pictures of their own race less compelling. Race simply does not make a difference.” I believe this shows how far we have come in America. Sure, we have a way to go, but this is not the kind of thing you will hear on Mainstream Media.

Then the report lists, “BIG THING #2 The second big thing we see in the data is that while the race of the child does not make a significant difference in how people react to these ads, the race of the adult seeing the ads affects the impact.”

Here are some other interesting things their report discovered:

  • Black evangelicals tend to find all images more compelling than other evangelicals, no matter whether the child pictured is Black, Asian, White, or Latino.
  • A picture of a Latino child shows several small but significant differences, making the image less compelling than others.
  • Gender does matter. Men showed slightly more positive results when shown a picture of a boy than when they see a girl. Women are more likely to say the ads featuring a boy caught their attention.

What does this mean for your church? Let me list a few key points from the report that I believe are helpful.

  • “The big message here is not to get caught up in stereotypes such as the examples we gave earlier in the report (e.g., “People want to see kids who look like them in our ads”). It appears what evangelical Protestants really want is to help people, not to help people of their own race or any specific ethnic background.”
  • “Never forget that details matter.” The report shares a story of the CEO of a non-profit having his picture taken helping in a famine-torn country. Several donors raised concerns that the CEO was wearing a big watch and wondered if money was going to support his lifestyle. It was an assumption that was wrong. Turns out Timex makes large watches for under $100. Assumptions are often wrong, but they do matter. Pay attention to the details!
  • “On the subject of gender, it does appear there is some bias toward helping boys over girls – and interestingly, that bias is substantially stronger among female evangelicals.” They state that more research needs to be done to discover why this is. Here is their advice, “At the moment, however, organizations should not consider de-emphasizing images of females, but putting forth images, stories, and information that make it clear their work is critical to males and females.”
  • They give a great summation stating, “It is important not to paint all evangelicals with the same brush.”

Remember the old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words?” When it comes to telling your story, this study has shown the power of pictures. Pictures can and will make a huge impact on your donors. But don’t treat all donors the same way. This is a very important point. People hear, and sense needs differently. It’s encouraging to find that evangelical Protestants want to help people. The key is finding the best way to communicate that need. Studies like the one quoted here help us understand the mind and hearts of our donors.

In Volume 10, Issue 11 of the Coach, I shared the value of donor segmentation. In my Bonus Section, I will recap some of the key points from that issue. Here is my summary statement of what this means, “The goal of segmentation is to know the various giving segments of your church to better communicate the message of your church to each segment.” Studies like the one quoted here help us understand the mind and heart of a donor.

Every church has a story. Today it is easier than ever to tell your story. Remember the quote from above, “It appears what evangelical Protestants really want is to help people, not to help people of their own race or any specific ethnic background.” By getting a story, aka vision, then working your story and showing people the impact of that story, you will raise the funds you need to keep working on that story. It’s time to tell your story, and pictures speak volumes!

Mark Brooks – The Stewardship Coach

Missions and Ministry Moment (aka Offering Talk) – This week’s talk can be accessed after you register at:

  1. You can go to this site to download your own copy of their report.

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