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Free Images and Icons for Your Nonprofit

How often do we hear that a picture is worth a thousand words? This saying reminds us that images have a huge impact on your website, flyers, and documents.

Images are essential for conveying your mission statement, values, and appealing to your audience. You can also use images to immediately illustrate what your nonprofit does. 

When you add eye-catching color and images to your blog, newsletter, and website, you can be sure that your audience will take notice. By using recommended graphic design principles, you amplify your nonprofit's message and mission to the whole world!

In this article, we’ll discuss how to use images to boost your nonprofit’s visual impact, and where to find free image banks:

We’ll explain everything there is to know!

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A Refresher on Copyrights and Intellectual Property

It’s easy to search for images online and use them, but first, let’s talk about copyrights and intellectual property. 

Each photo or image belongs to its creator. Copyright protects the intellectual property of the creator - whether it's a photograph, painting, or song.

Therefore, when you want to use an image for your nonprofit’s website or other materials, you need to ask the creator for permission. Otherwise, you could get into legal trouble and have to pay monetary damages!

You can avoid infringing copyright law by doing a little research. This additional effort is worth your time, because you won’t get a free pass even if you insist you didn’t know the image was copyrighted. Read on for how to properly use images while respecting copyrights.

Credits

Whether the photos you use are free or not, you should always credit the photographer (or creator, if it was an image designed by someone).

By crediting the owner, you demonstrate that you understand the image is copyrighted. More importantly, you protect yourself!

The credit can look like this:
Photo © Natalie West

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Even though you give credit where it’s due, you still need to get permission before using it! 

You can contact the creator through their website. If you’re not sure if the photo is available for you to use without credits, let it go. There are plenty of photos available in free image banks for you to choose from!

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Types of Free Images Available Online

There are ways to use images without needing permission, if you prefer that.

Some types of images that you can use without contacting the image owner for permission include:

  • Creative Commons licenses: Creative Commons is a nonprofit that helps creatives share their work and knowledge. The images are still copyrighted, but the copyright holder gives permission to use them under an open license.

    You can find images by using the Creative Commons search engine. You can specify whether you want to modify or adapt the image, so the search results only give you images with that permission.
  • Public domain images: Copyrights can be waived by the owner, or expire 70 years past the lifetime of the creator.

  • Royalty-free images:A royalty is a fee paid each time a book or song is sold. “Royalty-free” means you don’t have to pay each time you use the image. There is usually a one-time paid subscription or a one-time fee. Once you pay this fee, you can even use these images without credits!

Pro Tip: When in doubt, include credits for any images you use!

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Free Image Banks for Your Nonprofit’s Design Needs

If you already have some photos of your nonprofit’s activities and community, that’s great! You should use photos that showcase real people that your organization interacts with - with their permission though, of course!

Sometimes, you need to find a photo or image to make your poster, flyer, or website look even more polished. Image banks are very helpful for this, because you can choose from thousands of photos without needing to credit anyone. Just download and use!

Here are a couple image banks for you to select images for your blog articles, newsletters, and website:

Visual Hunt

Visual Hunt is an online library of over 350 million photos where content is categorized. The photos are free, but may be subject to different types of licenses.

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You’ll find that there is a convenient “Download for free” button for each image, so you can just click and download the image you want. 

On this website, you can filter photos based on category. You can even search for images based on colors, which is really helpful if you want to stick to a certain color scheme.

Unsplash

Unsplash offers good quality images that are free for you to download and use for your nonprofit. Permission is not required, but they encourage crediting the photographer.

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Even if you don't find the image you need on this website, you can browse Unsplash photos to get inspiration on how to capture visually pleasing images. 

Freepik

Freepik provides a lot of graphic design resources - vectors, icons, and images.

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Remember to pay attention to the license information provided for each image. Some files may ask for you to credit the creator, while others allow you to use them for non-commercial purposes. 

Besides these stock photo websites, there are some more free image banks for you to check out: 

  • Flickr has more than 200 million photos using Creative Commons licenses.
  • Pexels offers more than 6,000 public images - and videos!
  • Freeimages has around 400,000 photos.
  • Seeklogo offers logos in very good quality.

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How to Find Icons for Your Nonprofit

Icons are an ideal way to convey topics visually. They are great for adding special touches on websites and presentation slides.

If you use several icons, maintain a common theme, such as the line thickness, style, and color. This detail goes a long way, when it comes to establishing your nonprofit’s design and branding!

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Here are some icon providers that you can check out to find the perfect icons for your nonprofit: 

Noun Project

Noun Project offers minimalist icons that look great on websites, posters, and flyers. You can easily search for the icons you need.

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For a free account, you must credit the icon’s creator whenever you use the icon.

With a Noun Project paid subscription, you can download icons in any color and use them without crediting the creator.

Flaticon

Similar to Noun Project, Flaticon is an icon library, with over 3 million icons available.

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If you want to use the icons for free, you have to credit the icon’s creator. For unlimited use, you should upgrade to their paid subscription.

You can download icons in different formats and many sizes. If you’re going to use the icons for your website or email, PNG format for your icon files is recommended.

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You now have all the tools you need to find the right images and icons for your nonprofit! These resources are especially helpful if your nonprofit is recently established, and if you need a little help until you have some photographs of your nonprofit’s community, activities, and events.

Even if your nonprofit is well-established, and you already have images of your organization in action, feel free to use these free image banks as often as you need.

Your nonprofit can look great online and on paper!

Need some help creating your website, managing your database, or designing email newsletters?

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