Picture yourself with us: How supporter photos add a new edge to canvassing

March 2, 2015

We all know that a picture is worth a thousand words but a new experiment conducted by Amnesty International suggests that it might also be worth over a million dollars in donations.

Canvassers for the organization recently added one simple step to their recruitment strategy in Toronto: photographing new supporters. The small change had big results. Those who were given the opportunity to take a picture were more likely to fulfill donation pledges and more likely to continue supporting the organization for at least a year than those who were not. Equally exciting, each photo that supporters chose to share on Facebook earned an average of 8 visits to Amnesty’s donation page. Amnesty International predicts that the new strategy could bring them an additional $1.6 million in donations over the next two years.

Why were the photographs so successful? The organization points to the personal connection that the pictures add to the recruitment process. The fact that many new supporters requested to have their pictures taken with the canvassers who registered them adds weight their claim. The act of taking the picture creates a link between new supporters and the organization. When individuals receive their photos in a follow up email shortly after, it is a tangible reminder of that link and a motivation to get involved.

The benefits of the strategy expand even further when supporters share their photos on Facebook and other social media platforms. By taking advantage of the existing social networks of their members, organizations like Amnesty International can exponentially increase the number of people they reach. Supporter-driven exposure is also powerful in our age of constant advertisement. It communicates to people that a cause is important in their personal communities and can give an organization a sense of social momentum.

Amnesty International’s experiment in Toronto could serve as model for similar organizations trying to increase support. It also once again emphasizes how powerful visual communication can be. We want to hear from you. Could you incorporate street pictures into your organization’s canvassing? Are there other areas you think this strategy could be used? Let us know in the comments below!

–Alice Cohen, Winter Intern