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Why Non profits must look beyond “Poverty porn” advertising

Studies indicate 49% of donations are driven by guilt, mostly in smaller denominations and happen in the spur of the moment. Non profits hence use highly emotive images and footages to provoke reactions from viewers and possible donors. Youtube is flooded with video’s of adverts of people in hopeless situations and may lead to stereotyping of beneficiaries. We believe this approach may not be very effective and may create apathy rather than sustainable volunteering and participation.

A mature and humanistic representation of people that a non profit is supporting, using other emotional levers including humour, heroic, wonder, peaceful are healthier options.  While humour may not be the best bet for non-profits to get their message across, some non profits have brilliantly used humour to connect and inform people about their cause.  People get moved by compelling stories with rich imagery, beautiful music and personal appeals. Animation may be far more effective than a documentary or a traditional text and pictures content. Storytelling, especially of heroic incidents or growth of individuals are powerful tools for non-profits to involve others.  Stories that build a character, highlight how limitations and flaws can be overcome with the right tone of drama or comedy or a thriller pull viewers into non profit’s story. Narratives that capture the transition of anger, frustration, pensive moods to happiness or peace can make a difference. Humanize the stories without belittling the condition. Non profit advertisements can be humorous, pensive with loads of creativity without over-simplifying issues, but highlighting the structural issues that are the reasons for poor conditions. Advertisements that empowerment of beneficiaries works best when the central character or theme is about women & child development. Education, healthcare, sanitation and maternity related advertisements succeed to reach the hearts when following the above approach.  A powerful ending that is more call to action types, like I can you too can, works best to showcase hopes and dreams and support that can make it happen.  Public responds to narratives that showcase a tangible and definitive impact.  Psychologists indicate single person props work better than multiple persons as viewers feel more connected.  Non profits must open up for more dignified presentations of the beneficiaries and present authentic stories from the field. Make your presentation to the point and do not hijack the cause by stepping in and showing as hero, but rather true helper from outside with compassion and understanding.