Estimated reading time: 2 minutes, 34 seconds

stock_xchngNonprofits work on a “shoestring budget” just as much as (or more than) small businesses and even individual family homes. When you’re focused so intently on using your donor’s contributions to further your mission, it can be hard to justify putting money toward other more “frivolous” things.

Of course, this can be a major catch-22. Take your web site, for instance. Putting together something attractive and user-friendly can be expensive, so it’s tempting to skip the professional designer and do it on your own. BUT. The web site itself can actually be an important tool for soliciting donations, so it’s reasonable to think that you should spend the money up front to earn it back.

The decisions involved with how to spend a nonprofit’s budget can get overwhelming!

One way to save a little cash is to use free stock photos. This are images that you can download to use on your web site, print materials, and any other place that seems appropriate. There are libraries of hundreds of thousands of images online, and some of them provide the graphics to you for no charge. What you end up with are professional quality photos for your site without paying for a professional photographer. It can be the best of both worlds.

There are a few sites you might want to consider when searching for images. One of the most popular is stock.xchng. You simply sign up for an account and are able to browse through and download their photos. Because they’re free and popular, however, their images are sometimes used quite extensively across the web, so it might be a good idea to do a search by the file name to see if that particular image is being used in a similar way on another organization’s site.

Nonprofits looking for nice photos may also find what they need at morgueFile. This site includes tens of thousands of photos, most of which are at a pretty high quality. In return for using the images, you are requested to include a credit to the photographer. The library is pretty searchable, making it relatively easy to find images that fit your needs.

A third option is Freerange. Their photos tend to be of nice quality and are tagged to make searching easier. Their library is smaller than some of the other services, though, so you will have less of a chance to find exactly the right image. It’s definitely worth checking out when you need nice photography that is free to use.

As a nonprofit supporting the greater good, ensuring that you’re not infringing on an artist or photographer’s copyright is likely well aligned with your organization’s values. Many times, an amateur designer doesn’t even realize he or she is infringing by doing a Google image search and using the graphics that seem so easily accessible. Keep in mind, though, that those images are copyrighted, and using them without permission is stealing. A safer alternative for free images is to use sites like those listed above.

Last modified on Sunday, 19 May 2013
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