Flickr and NonProfits

September 15, 2008 at 4:34 pm 8 comments

What is Flickr?
Put simply, Flickr is an online photo sharing site.

Flickr – What is it Good For?
In his book “Here Comes Everybody”, Clay Shirky provides purposes for the social media site which go beyond the pale. Certainly, at its most basic it is an excellent photo sharing, database and organizing system – but its reach and power goes beyond that.

Firstly, as Shirky points out, Flickr doesn’t organize the photos – YOU do – an amazing feat in itself. By using tags (a keyword system common to many social-sharing sites), people organize their pictures in logical ways (such as Events – e.g. BarCamp Vancouver or Visual Content/Topics – e.g. homeless ), so that they might later find them more easily.

Luckily, this organization helps others, as well. As Shirky notes of Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade:

“The interesting social side effect of tags is that although people are doing this out of a personal need to keep track of their photos and so forth, the aggregate social effect is that if you go onto Flickr today and you look for all photos tagged ‘Mermaid Parade,’ you’re going to get tens of thousands of photos taken by hundreds of individual photographers.”

Shirky also describes the greater good of Flickr in that people post evidence pictures (of tragic events, wrongdoing, and so forth ) as well as search for missing people during catastrophic occurrences (e.g. London Bombings, the Indian Ocean Tsunami). And he makes the point that these photos are often used on other people’s blogs when discussing the subject, which spreads the picture and message around.

As you can see, Flickr has a power that extends beyond your group alone. While you might be posting, other people are seeing and reacting to the photo. Curiosity alone will get some to learn more about your organization, and possibly spread your picture and message around (some even get gallery exposure). By posting your picture on a site with as many users (and hence, eyes) as Flickr, you are exposing your message to countless people, some of whom will be interested enough to join you and support.

With that in mind, here are just a few examples of Flickr uses for Nonprofits:

  • Create a Photo Petition (such as Oxfam’s). This is a really exciting use of Flickr. Oxfam asks that you to “add your picture in support of Ethiopian coffee farmers”, for their Starbucks Photo Petition.
  • Document an Event of Significance. Youth Service America’s Global Youth Service Day 2008, is a great example of this. (When Beth Kanter talks to Ian Gottesman, Director of Information Technology at the organization and Gottesman remarks, “Especially if the event is carried out through a network where your staff cannot be everywhere the event is taking place. It gives everyone a feeling of community and shows what people are doing for your event. It also helps capture stories that are really compelling so you can retell them.” (See Footnote (1), below)

  • As a Database – That Generates Traffic. “[H]elp generate traffic, reduce on bandwidth and storage” – gtp_zambia. These are some of the reasons Global Teenager Project (Zambia) – uses Flickr. And they’re darn good ones too. Think about it: most organizations have a myriad of photos taken at events, for pamphlets, brochures, websites – many are not on a website simply because of bandwith issues. Upload to Flickr – use the site as a low-cost database/storage unit, while promoting your cause and accumulating more photos (as others contribute). And, if a photo is intriguing, it creates even more interest and attention – a bonus for your purpose!

  • Run a Photo Contest. The Nature Conservatory runs an annual photo contest. Your digital photos will help to inspire others to protect our natural world.” And the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) runs an annual Earth Day contest: “We want to see how you would show EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment.” “Has your community organization cleaned up a stream? Have you enjoyed a day in the woods? Has a wild animal ever sparked your imagination? If you’ve caught anything like those moments in a photo, share it with us!” The contest asked you to submit to 3 separate groups, depending on content (Enjoying the Environment , Protecting the Environment, Nature and Wildlife).

  • Connect the Dots – on a Map. Flickr has Geotagging – so you can create a map that works with your cause. (E.g. I’ll be advising the CPP participants to Geotag photos of the rivers that have been devastated by privatization etc.) (See Footnote (2) )

  • Make it Easy for the Media. Some have photos up “to put information out there for the local media to access when they want to feature us in a story.” – Cmartin82

  • Add Your Face. Somewhat similar to the Photo Petition, ONE (“Americans of all beliefs and every walk of life – united as ONE – to help make poverty history”) wants you to join their Flickr group and post your photo to it to demonstrate support.
  • Add Your Message. Like any social media endeavor you are best to combine a few that would best serve your goal. (A Flickr campaign can work with a YouTube one, for instance – and many organizations have a Facebook Group, Twitter, Flickr etc. e.g. ) One that made great use of Youtube and could have built up their Flickr stream quite seamlessly, is Stand Up to Cancer which also uses many other social media tools. Stand up to Cancer asked people to submit pictures stating why they “Stand Up to Cancer” (e.g. “Because of my Dad” etc. Photos were then edited on the video. The video also requests that people post photos to their Flickr group (with SU2C tag). Oddly, while the organization no doubt has a ton of photos (used for the video and the many more which were likely submitted/sent – they didn’t cross-post many of them to Flickr… (Perhaps that’s in the works?)

So there you go – just a few ways Flickr can generate attention and support for your cause.

Any examples you like, that I haven’t listed here? Or what are your thoughts on these methods – have they been successful for your organization? I would love to hear your thoughts.


(1) Many note that nonprofits are fortunate in that they have compelling stories to tell. Pictures are part of this equation. Choose pictures that tell a good story.

(2) Be the Full Stop (which wants to put an end to child cruelty) uses geotagging in a great way, by asking their supporters to get on a map pledging their support.

(3) When you post, try to keep others in mind and choose a Creative Commons license that will allow them to re-post your photo

(4) Respect people and treat their photos as you would want them to treat yours. Be aware of permissions (note the Creative Commons license/rights for each picture. While many will allow you to “Share and share alike”, some don’t). If they don’t, try to contact them through Flickr and ask them if you can use their photos. Provide the specific context you intend to use their photos. Many, will in fact, allow you to use their photos once that communication and context is established. If not, respect their position and find another picture that would work.

(5) Flickr basic accounts are free. Flickr even gives away Pro accounts to Nonprofits as part of their “Flickr for Good” initiative.

(6) Create a stream or slideshow with your Flickr photos on your website

Some Great Resources I’ve Used for this Post:

For More Resources – See my delicious bookmarks – [tagged: powertoyou & flickr]

add to :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank

My Related Posts:

Nonprofits and Social Media – Getting Your Fans to Help You

Flickr and Nonprofits

YouTube and Nonprofits

Facebook, MySpace and Nonprofits

Twitter and Nonprofits

More NonProfit Social Media Ideas


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