Cap­i­tal Area Unit­ed Way: a well-cap­tioned pho­to is worth 1,000 words

Exhibited by
November 16, 2011
Medium of Communication
Target Audience
Type of Charity
Children, youth and family, community & social services, education, healthcare, social change, volunteer centres / bureaux
Country of Origin
Date of first appearance
July, 2010

SOFII’s view

Imagine getting into a lift only to find you are standing next to a potential major donor. Could you tell her what your organisation does and why you need her in 30 seconds? Yes? Then well done. No? Then you’re among the many fundraisers who work for larger charities whose missions are so far reaching that the simple question of ‘what do you do?’ requires a long and complicated answer. Capital Area United Way faced this exact problem. By re-designing their website and including a special online photo documentary they found a way to tell their story and explain their mission which informs and inspires supporters. This is something that could be replicated by many organisations.

Creator / originator

Capital Area United Way:

Summary / objectives

More than a 1,000 words is an online photo documentary that has been created to help define the Capital Area United Way organisation and increase traffic to their website.


Capital Area United Way is an organisation designed to build a network of partnerships and services to make a difference to the lives of people and their communities. Helping people and improving communities is their mission and their main areas of focus are on health, education, income and basic needs.

With such a wide-ranging and far-reaching focus, it is not surprising that the organisation found it difficult to answer the simple question ‘what is United Way’? They realised that they have many answers and that it was important to give donors and individuals interested in learning more about the organisation a simple message about what they do and what they have achieved. With technology, the internet and social media taking centre stage, United Way knew that it was vital to have a website which offers easy navigation for visitors to learn, to volunteer and to give. They also developed a special feature called ‘More than a 1,000 words’, a special online photo documentary that shows real stories from people that the United Way have helped.

Special characteristics

United Way’s special online photo documentary has been incorporated into their newly designed website and helps to define the organisation and brings to life the stories of the people they have helped. Each story is unique and personal as well as being beautifully photographed. New stories are unveiled each month.

Influence / impact

The online photo documentary has proved to be a great attraction on the website. By releasing a new story every month, United Way has been able to attract new individuals to the site who learn about the organisation and are then moved to donate or to volunteer their time. In the past, the organisation received approximately 18,000 visits per year to their website. With this new feature, they have received 15,000 visits in just four months.

The photographs that feature in each story have also been used successfully in other marketing materials.


A corporate sponsor was found to underwrite the costs of the project. Additionally, much of the production time and services were donated.


Many large nonprofits have run into difficulty when describing who they are and what they do. This concept demonstrates an easy and accessible way to show supporters what your work has achieved and what you would still like to do. The combination of online technology, compelling photographs and real-life, touching stories ensures that visitors return to the website on a regular basis.

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