The face, with its endless capability for communication, is believed to be the primary non-verbal channel for emotional communication. Have you ever wondered why we always see sad facial expressions for fundraising? It follows that images of victims on charity appeals attempt to elicit reactions such as sympathy and subsequently encourage donations.
Research reported in the AMA Journal of Marketing Research - The Face of Need: Facial Emotion Expression on Charity Advertisements found that sad faces prompt more giving:
"people are more sympathetic and give more to a charity when the victim portrayed on the advertisement expressed sadness than when a victim expressed happiness or neutral emotion.... Taken together, the findings imply the importance of subtle emotional cues that sway sympathy and giving."
One of the findings showed higher response rates for the sad child than the happy or neutral one:
If you have a fundraising campaign, think carefully about the emotion expressed on your lead image.