As over £75m rolls in after another successful Red Nose Day, we consider the role of entertainment in charitable giving and how to increase appeal to the millennial generation.
In a noisy world proliferated with channels, devices, and touch points, it's all too easy to shut out unwelcome charity messages. The age-old techniques of 'chugging' and showing harrowing images of suffering are easily sidestepped and ignored. We have become a society obsessed with entertainment and, whilst the 'guilt-trip' charity ploy has its place, a more positive approach is becoming necessary in order to connect with the new generation of givers.
Rather than creating content that we want to escape from – such as Save The Children’s three minute TV ads depicting suffering – we need content that makes us feel part of a campaign so we donate through choice rather than guilt. As the funds roll in from another successful Red Nose Day, it's worth considering how Comic Relief’s approach has achieved such success. In the twenty-five years since the first red noses appeared on our TV screens, Comic Relief has raised in excess of £800m for charitable causes.
Other telethons, such as Children in Need and Sport Relief, are huge money-spinners. In the 1980s, Band Aid and Live Aid showed the power of music in harnessing public support for a worthy cause. These examples pointed the way for charity fundraising. Charities need to entertain and engage the public to encourage them to contribute. This doesn't mean that the core message has to be diluted: it can still be sincere, it can still be hard-hitting, and we still need to know the purpose of a charity's existence, but it can also provide us with entertainment. Take Bill Bailey's ad for Prostate Cancer UK earlier this year as a perfect example.
It's no secret that many charities are still overly dependent on the 'Dorothy Donor' profile and find engaging the millennial generation far more difficult. Whilst this group may still be affected by the hard-hitting guilt trips, millennials are harder to shock. They also expect more. They expect to receive something back for their payment, whether it be entertainment, the feel good factor, or to feel like they're a part of something. Their donation is more transactional than it will be for a 'Dorothy Donor' and if they are going to part with their hard-earned money, they won't want to do it merely to suppress guilt.
Offering greater rewards for charitable giving is one powerful way to boost fundraising. Another is to tap into the activism and desire for social justice which drives social media. WaterAid has used blogs and Instagram photo updates to connect donors with the communities they are helping through The Big Dig campaign, which has raised £2.2m to improve access to safe water in Malawi. This is a fantastic example of how charities can make greater use of online engagement to keep donors in the loop on how their money is spent. Social media can also be a great way to boost awareness and amplification of a charitable message. In February, a one-day Twitter campaign for Railway Children, a charity supported by Aviva, raised £98,000 in 24 hours.
With more channels, devices and ways to share than ever before, there are also more opportunities for charities to take advantage of the age-old 'badge of honour'. It is undoubtable that donating to charity is a reflection upon ourselves - a form of personal statement. The Poppy Appeal has achieved huge success by creating a symbol that makes a statement about us when we wear it. The poppy represents respect. In a similar vein, Make Poverty History wristbands represent conscientiousness. With an ever-increasing variety of touch points and platforms available to us, we have an ever-increasing number of ways to create these badges of honour. Whether it be on social networks, interactive outdoor advertising, or using NFC, not only do these platforms hold the potential to make donating easier, they also make charities and causes more visible as a direct result of it.
Arguably, charities need to start seeing themselves as brands. We don't buy products from a brand unless it stands to benefit us in some way and, although the charity model is different, the transactional aspect is the same. If they manage to master the art of viewing the world in this way, charities stand to unlock the donating power of the millennial generation, turning them into the generous donors of the future.