How Not to Fail at Using GIFs in Your Nonprofit Communications

You may have noticed in the last few years that there has been an explosion in the popularity of GIFs. We noticed, too, so I took a deeper look into the best ways for a nonprofit to incorporate these graphics into your visual media toolbox.

First a definition: a GIF, which stands for “Graphics Interchange Format,” is made up of several different images that play in succession, appearing like a short video reel.

GIFs can be used in several different ways—on your blog, homepage or social media channels—determine the goal behind using a GIF before you get started. To get your wheels turning, I’ll share a few of the most effective ways GIFs are used as to enhance online communications:

  1. GIFs can inject humor.

Injecting humor into your communications can work wonders to engage your audience; however, humor can be difficult to pull off effectively in communications efforts. GIFs make this much easier!

A simple and common way to do this is by posting a GIF in a blog post that describes, or reacts to, the main message of your post. For example, if you are announcing that you received a major grant or you are launching a new program, chose a GIF that expresses overwhelming excitement such as the one below to give your readers a good chuckle:


TIP: If you haven’t seen the “When You Work at a Nonprofit” Tumblr page, visit it now to see page after page of GIFs that describe working at a nonprofit for a good, long laugh!

  1. GIFs can be used to emphasize a key idea.

Another way to use GIFs is by creating a dramatic effect that draws your audience in and emphasizes a key idea. One of my favorite examples of this is to create a GIF with an image that remains the same throughout the sequence except for one important detail that draws the eye of the viewer. See this example from the Nonprofit Association of Oregon to understand what I mean!

  1. GIFs can serve as a tool to educate.

Many people learn and understand ideas only after seeing a visual demonstration. Being one of these people, I greatly appreciate the capacity for GIFs to educate. As in the example above, an easy way to do this is to change one detail in each photo of your GIFs sequence. This GIF from shows the formation of the United States in a way that firmly sticks with the viewer!

changing-usa (1)


Now, these GIFs might APPEAR difficult to create, but it’s much easier than it looks. You don’t need to download any special software or purchase an app—all you need is a sequence of images to place together and your laptop. Then, you can use one of many free tools to create your very own unique GIF.

Here are a few of our favorites to create OR find the GIF you need:

  • Use Picasion if you want to create your own GIF and avoid the brand watermark that comes with many free tools.
  • Choose Giphy for an easily shareable GIF creation OR search the large database for an already-created GIF to use.
  • MakeAGIF allows you to upload photos or pre-made videos and transform them into GIFs.

Do you have tips for incorporating GIFs in communications efforts? Share with us below!

Cecilia Bianco

Former Account Executive Cecilia Bianco supported Reclaiming Futures, Playworks, and the Strengthening Families portfolio for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Fond of social media and communications for social good, Cecilia is also a wine lover, occasional barre athlete, more-than-occasional Nordstrom patron and Olivia Pope fanatic.
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