Under the Hood: How Heifer International Uses Visual Content

Photo Courtesy of Heifer International

Heifer International is a global charity with a simple but ambitious mission: to work with communities to end hunger and poverty and care for the earth. Heifer produces every type of content imaginable, but visual content plays a special role.

Since Heifer is active in 125 countries and their supporters are equally far flung, pictures and video are important tools for sharing their mission and deepening the understanding of challenges and successes.

Casey Neese

I recently spoke to Casey Neese, social media manager at Heifer’s headquarters in Little Rock, Arkansas, about how the international charity collects and curates visual content and what nonprofits of all sizes can learn from Heifer.

Leave no stone unturned.

“We get our visual content from several places,” explained Casey. “Volunteers are one place, but we also send our own photographers into the field when needed. Of course, field staff are a third valuable source.”

Whether your nonprofit is an international organization such as Heifer, or a local food bank, images that capture your nonprofit’s mission are out there if you look for them. I can speak to this firsthand. When I worked at a Boston safety-net hospital, I was frustrated that I didn’t have any good images from an outdoor event showcasing a new emergency helicopter. Fortunately, I scoured Flickr and our residential neighbors near the hospital had snapped and posted some great pictures. (This post from Mightycause’s Ifdy Perez will help in your search for visual content: 6 Images that Every Nonprofit Should Capture.)

Spread it around.

Heifer posts content on Pinterest, Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

“Each platform does something different,” said Casey. “Instagram is a great way to connect with young people on the go, but Pinterest is the place to be for women and moms.”

With all the talk about Instagram and Pinterest, I asked Casey if there is still a place for Flickr.

“Absolutely,” he said. “We’re actually spending some time building out our presence on Flickr.” With headings such as “From the Field” and “Photos by You,” Heifer is cataloging all its images on Flickr.

Get the team involved.

I asked Casey how he picks which images to post with all the images he gets from around the world. He doesn’t.

“It’s a team effort,” he reported. “We involve a lot of different people in the process, but picking the right image is just one step in the process. The team also mixes and matches the photos to fit different campaigns, programs and events.”

It’s all about the story.

Regardless of the image or the platform it’s posted on, Heifer is most focused on sharing a compelling story. The Flickr collection Their Voices features quotes from Heifer participants, staff, and visitors who speak of hope, self-help, and thankfulness.


The ability to easily share a story with others is also a priority. Casey points to this video on Heifer India where they added live links right inside the video that allowed viewers to share it on Facebook and Twitter.

“It’s a very cool feature YouTube offers non-profit partners,” he said.