There is no shortage of research that reports that visuals are key to creating engaging communications. Based on this research, we now know that:

  • Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text;
  • Adding a photo to your tweet can increase engagement by 35 percent;
  • Blog posts with images receive 94 percent more views than those without.

We’re such big advocates of visual media that we presented on the subject at the Nonprofit Technology Conference, the Social Media Club of Portland and in countless visual media trainings for clients. Through our work, we identified several free and easy ways that nonprofit communicators can add visuals to your communications beyond your Facebook cover photo.

Make Presentation Pop

PowerPoints get a bad rap for having boring, snooze-inducing slides that presenters rely too heavily on. However, creating compelling visual aids that accompany your story can strengthen your presentation at an upcoming board meeting, your annual conference or a speaking opportunity.

Consider adding in real life, authentic photos that tap into the emotions of your audience and foster real connections with your brand. If you don’t have high-resolution photos of your mission at work on hand, consider The Stocks, a website that aggregates free-to-download, high-quality photos. Because its photos are license-free, you don’t have to add any attribution, and you’re free to edit, enhance or brand the image as you see fit. On The Stocks, you’ll only find beautiful, eye-catching photography — no stuffy stock photos in sight! The Stocks is also a valuable resource for finding photos for your blog.

Read more of my tips for avoiding death by PowerPoint and make your presentations pop.

Visualize Your Social Media Content

You don’t have to be a big brand with a big budget to create compelling, illustrated visuals—you know, the ones that typically generate 53 percent more Facebook likes than simple text posts?

Canva makes this possible for nonprofit communicators. It’s a free and easy-to-use visual editing website (translation: no Photoshop skills required) that shares seasonal templates and illustrations that are already pre-sized for various social mediaRF-CostSavings
platforms like Facebook or Instagram.

We used Canva to help our client Reclaiming Futures promote new research that showed the public health framework is cost effective. Canva helped us create an illustration that communicated a research finding and offered a visual cue to illustrate cost savings. Reclaiming Futures used this image to capture the attention of its social media followers, and drive them to the full announcement on its website.

Make Your Annual Report Stand Out

Annual reports can benefit from visuals that help communicate your nonprofit’s impact, highlight success, and offer shareable content that resonates with supporters and donors. In addition to real photos of your stakeholders, consider adding easy-to-read infographics that can help communicate dense data or surveys you want to feature in your annual report.

Piktochart and are two free tools that can help you create interesting infographics. Both offer templates, icons and images, and are compatible with Excel or Google Sheets, so you can easily upload your data. See this example of a simple yet compelling Piktochart infographic featuring statistics about education around the world.

NeighborhoodCentersOther nonprofits are making their annual reports even more social and visual. A Houston nonprofit, Neighborhood Centers, accomplished this by adapting its annual report into an Instagram campaign. The organization posted 60 square pictures, each showing the faces of people impacted by their work, and each featuring a fragment of text overlaid. The photo captions shared short bites of the annual report and invited their followers to click on the link in their profile to “see the whole story,” revealing a full message mural made up of individual photos. Each image encouraged visitors to visit their website to see the full annual report.

What resources do you use to add visuals to your communications? Check out more of our favorite tools to enhance your nonprofit’s visual assets.