Weird or Wise? Patron Photos in Your CRM

A Debate between Gene Carr, CEO & Michelle Paul, Director of Product Development  

Gene: Hey Michelle, I was thinking of a cool idea. What if we made it easy for organizations to embed pictures of their donors or ticket buyers on their PatronManager contact record? That way box office and development staff could recognize their patrons more easily when they come to the venue. Sort of like this:

Michelle:  Um… I don’t know. You don’t think that’s kind of creepy? Where would you get the pictures?

Gene: Well, if you have a live fundraising event with a photographer or photo booth, that could be a start. But even without a live event, you can do a Google image search pretty much anyone, and you’re likely to find a few pictures.

Michelle: But how would you even know which image was the right person? Look what happens when I search for “Michelle Paul” in an anonymous browser window:


Gene: Fair enough… but what about LinkedIn, where I can see your photo and other info about you in context? Couldn’t an organization just use those photos?

Michelle: I don’t know, I still veer towards “creepy” on that. If you find me on LinkedIn and see my photo, that’s generally because we have some kind of professional connection with each other — I can have privacy settings that control who’s allowed to see that photo. If you download it and put it in your organization’s database for the whole staff to see… that feels like not what I was intending when I put a photo on LinkedIn.

Gene: I just don’t see the difference. Think of it this way: If a development department is doing their job well now, they are going to research prospects online anyway. So all you’re doing is making their job easier, and in turn making your patrons potentially feel more known by the staff.

Michelle: I get that… and I honestly don’t have a particularly strong argument to make here other than “this feels like a weird / overstepping thing to do.” I’d be REALLY interested to hear what other people think about this idea!

So, what do you think? Finding photos of your donors/members/subscribers on the internet and putting them in your CRM system to make it easier for staff to recognize them: creepy and weird, or smart and effective?

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3 responses to “Weird or Wise? Patron Photos in Your CRM

  1. We do this! Or I should say, we’ve tried this… Both with the social plug-in that looks a lot like (and may be) your screenshot above, and with a pair of custom field that pulls an image from a URL. In theory, we find them helpful just for knowing what VIPs look like, especially for new employees. (If someone who already knows this does the searching, Michelle’s concern with finding the wrong pic isn’t a problem.) In practice, the social plug-in isn’t great because people’s Twitter avatars aren’t necessarily their faces, and can change at any time, and the manual method isn’t great because, well, it’s manual, and a pain to set up and keep up to date.

    I once worked in a box office with a board member who would walk up to the window and just stand there, expecting us to know who she was. We had her picture tacked up on the bulletin board. Granted, you’d have to have already been in her record in PM for this to be the equivalent of that, but I like the idea.

    Visually, I really like the picture up top where the social plug-in puts it. If there were a way for me to update these images manually, I feel like I’d do it.

    1. Question: If you walked up to a box office window to buy tickets somewhere (let’s say it’s somewhere you’ve bought tickets a few times before, but you don’t feel a huge connection with), and you happened to notice your face on their screen, how would you feel about it?

      Would your reaction be different if it was your Twitter photo or the one you’re using here, vs something else from the dregs of the internet?

      (These aren’t meant as leading questions, I’m genuinely curious!)

      1. If it were my Twitter photo it wouldn’t bother me…but also I do this for a living so I’d immediately know what’s going on. I could see how it might bother a “civilian.” But also — it’s your Twitter photo. You’ve made it public. If it were something from the dregs I’d find it more weird for sure.

        The social media integration is what makes it unweird, I think. If you’re digging around for a photo, it’s a different can of worms.

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