Our #OverExposed campaign reframes how we think about using identifiable images of children. The tried and tested formula of using children’s images has long been the bedrock of funding campaigns. But now it’s time for a change. We invite you to rethink how you use images of children in your brand and campaigns as an organisation working in the sector.
Identifiable, emotive images of children living through conflict, disaster, injustice, or poverty have long been a reliable fundraising approach for charities working in international contexts. These grim, heartbreaking realities do exist and it is essential people worldwide understand this and are given the opportunity to help.
However, in many cases, images of children in these vulnerable situations depict a desperate, one-dimensional story. This can leave people feeling guilty or conflicted. Overexposure to these images over decades can also leave people feeling disconnected and indifferent, even cynical. Whilst we’re not here to debate the efficacy of these images in fundraising, we do want to highlight that images of children experiencing trauma and vulnerability can do more harm than good. They put children at risk, exploiting rather than helping them. The images, which often live online forever, strip children of their dignity and objectify, even de-humanise them.
That’s why at Chance for Childhood, we will be refreshing our brand and will phase out images that identify features of children aged under 18. We will also completely remove children’s faces from all fundraising appeals from 6th September 2022.
It hasn’t been an easy decision, but it is the ethical one.
We anticipate that our #OverExposed campaign will galvanise a sector-wide essential shift in the way that organisations reflect on their editorial standards. We recognise why this might be a daunting decision for some organisations, which is why we wanted to share our reasoning behind it. Below we outline some key considerations from our learnings so far:
Do your images reflect your values?
You need to consider your values, and the needs of the people you work with and question your motivations, and expectations, behind using images of children. “At Chance for Childhood, we put children at the centre of everything we do. But when we looked at our images we were really forced to reflect on whether child-centredness was running through all areas of our work,” explains Anna-Mai Andrews, Co-CEO. “Those images may serve a marketing purpose but what about the children we work with? Does it work for them? Can it ever work for them? Once we acknowledged our images as a problem, we had to make this change. For us, it is about reflecting our values in every part of our work”.
Do your images serve their purpose?
Images may support your awareness and fundraising efforts but does including identifiable features of the children in the images add value? Always ask ‘what if this was me or my child?’ Thinking creatively and refreshing your approach will result in being more authentic and engaging than ever.
How will reframing the use of images work for your organisation? Will it affect the way you and your colleagues work?
“We’ve learnt so much going through this process,” said Anna-mai. “We’ve challenged ourselves to think creatively about how to capture impactful images or tell stories that are engaging and inspire donors, whilst treating children with dignity. It can be done”.
Do you understand the risks associated with your images?
There are risks to any brand refresh but there are also risks in staying the same whilst everything changes around you. Co-CEO Katie Fowler remarks, “It’s easy to stick with tried and tested approaches, and it may feel like a risky move, especially if emotive images of children’s faces are the foundation of your fundraising appeals. But in many ways, we’re also aware that overexposure to shocking images has desensitised so many people and continues to dehumanise children who have very real needs”.
The risk to children’s images online is now greater than ever and this poses questions about whether parents, caregivers or children themselves can ever be fully informed about where their images might end up? The very organisations that exist to protect children, could indeed be exploiting them further, albeit unintentionally. Katie explains “for years we have found it difficult to qualify ‘informed consent’ when documenting our programmes through imagery and we’ve now reached a point where we’ve admitted defeat. Once an image is online, we can no longer protect it and we must stop trying to justify this by asking parents to sign a form”.
Are you committed to managing this change?
Honesty is the best policy.“You have to be honest with yourself throughout the process,” advises Anna-mai, “we had to accept that there were some things we weren’t doing right and that the change was going to be uncomfortable. But refreshing our brand through a values lens has also been incredibly exciting and breathed energy into Chance for Childhood”.
Being a small agile organisation means we were able to make decisions and gain buy-in fairly quickly but modest resources have meant that we’ve taken a phased approach to roll out. We have focussed on mitigating our funding risks and making our refreshed brand successful and these risks will be different for each organisation. Careful planning is needed but can be achieved with a full commitment to managing the change.
Will you be part of the journey?
We recognise that the majority of organisations haven’t taken a stand like this. We have decided to share our journey to encourage others to also reflect on their own practices and hope that, as a sector, we can now start to have honest discussions about the appropriate use of child imagery.” If we truly want to safeguard children in vulnerable situations, it’s our collective job to ensure they experience the same protections, considerations, and rights as any other child in the world.
Join our #OverExposed campaign and show your support by making a pledge on our website www.chanceforchildhood.org or send us an email at