When you send an email, are your donors missing the picture? Seriously. Many may not have images automatically open. So all you get it a weird blank space. And possibly some words.
Those words are the "alt" text. When you add an image to an email or web page, most programs allow you to fill fields for both "title" and alternative or "alt."
On websites, the alt text can help search engines better understand what your image is about. The SEO experts at Moz have a great example of using alt text to help search engines understand the image of a man with a tie is really "Jim Halpert's impersonation of Dwight Schrute." If you were searching for images from the US version of The Office, this alt text will help the search engine include this image in its results.
But alt text matters beyond the web page.
Alt text matters in email too
Let's say you send an email with this image of one person whispering in another person's ear. (Like I did in a recent Ask Without Fear! newsletter.)
If for some reason your image doesn't load - either because of a server issue or because the subscriber has image loading turned off by default - the image you carefully chose to enhance your message will be just a blank space.
But with alt text filled in, you can describe the image. Or use it to possibly still enhance your message. Even piquing their curiosity like I tried in that email. Some people who received it, saw this.
If their interest is piqued enough, they may load the image which will help you more accurately assess open rates. But even if they don't, it may give them a better feel for the "character" of your nonprofit. If it fits with your organizational voice, humor and quirky can be fun ways to make your message stand out.
Adding alt text takes a little extra time but is really easy. Most email editors have a field for alt text.
If yours doesn't, you can always go into the code and add alt="Image Description" before the closing > in the image HTML. (The MOZ article on alt text has some helpful examples.)
Alt text is even a social justice issue
The "surprise" example above isn't the best use of alt text. Alt text is primarily intended to describe the image for people who can't see it. Screen readers, often used by people with visual impairments, will read the alt text to help the person more full understand the image that others are seeing.
So in doing the right thing by adding descriptive text for those with differing vision capabilities, you will be helping even seeing people more fully understand your nonprofit's message. Even if they are missing the picture!