A fundraising ad that almost got it right

Here’s an ad for Save the Children UK that almost got it right:

Or watch it here on YouTube.

It aired on television.

What this video does right:


  • Focus on real children. It doesn’t play the abstract symbol game, but shows the children in need that they’re hoping to motivate donors to help. (It’s sad that when nonprofit ads do this it’s notable.)
  • Jarring, realistic imagery. Some of the images toward the end are frankly hard to look at. No pie-in-the-sky abstractions here. That’s how you get people to give.

What the video does wrong:


  • Wastes time being clever. Nearly half of the meager 60 seconds is spent showing kids so close-up you can’t see the problem. They’re doing it for a reason — building to a clever reveal. Being clever is a waste of time. And it’s not motivating.
  • Plays the numbers game. This is one of the most common of fundraising errors. Millions of children living in poverty is not a reason people respond. It’s a reason they don’t respond.
  • No specific fundraising offer. Fundraising works when it’s about action. Specific action that your audience understands and can get excited about. They were probably banking on the strong awareness that Save the Children has. And that probably helps. But relying on your brand to reel in the donation is like expecting your car to fill itself with gas.
  • Call to action is on-screen only four seconds. Effective direct-response would have it visible the whole time.

I’m not calling this video a Stupid Nonprofit Ad, though it has some of the characteristics of one. Let’s call it a worthy effort that succumbed to some of the temptations of glib agency style over fundraising substance.

Thanks to Osocio for the tip.


Comments

6 responses to “A fundraising ad that almost got it right”

  1. Steve Sullivan Avatar
    Steve Sullivan

    All this needed were some different decisions in the editing room to be a fantastic and effective ad. Too bad.

  2. Steve Sullivan Avatar
    Steve Sullivan

    All this needed were some different decisions in the editing room to be a fantastic and effective ad. Too bad.

  3. Joe White Avatar

    I think the key thing to be aware of here is that the ad is not a fundraising ad but rather a brand ad.
    True there is a fundraising ask because that is a strong, joined up integrated approach to their comms strategy however this is design to compliment the strong suite of fundraising TV ads which Save the Children have rather than replace them.
    Those ads address all of the issues which you flag in your blog and together the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

  4. Joe White Avatar

    I think the key thing to be aware of here is that the ad is not a fundraising ad but rather a brand ad.
    True there is a fundraising ask because that is a strong, joined up integrated approach to their comms strategy however this is design to compliment the strong suite of fundraising TV ads which Save the Children have rather than replace them.
    Those ads address all of the issues which you flag in your blog and together the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

  5. I’d have to say you’re wrong. What you call the build-up is much more than that. For those that work with children and around poverty issues – especially in third world countries – the first task is humanizing children that don’t look like our own. Making potential donors see their fragility, their yearnings. If you do that, the ask is about children. Not African children. Not Guatemalan children. Just children.
    The video is brilliant. Because every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, babysitter and teacher can relate. We see our children lying in bed and we get lost in our thoughts. We want to them to succeed. We want them to thrive. We want them to be safe and feel loved.
    Once you conjured up those thoughts again, you can ask me anything and I’ll say yes.
    In fact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement for me to say that this is the best video I’ve ever seen from Save The Children.

  6. I’d have to say you’re wrong. What you call the build-up is much more than that. For those that work with children and around poverty issues – especially in third world countries – the first task is humanizing children that don’t look like our own. Making potential donors see their fragility, their yearnings. If you do that, the ask is about children. Not African children. Not Guatemalan children. Just children.
    The video is brilliant. Because every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, babysitter and teacher can relate. We see our children lying in bed and we get lost in our thoughts. We want to them to succeed. We want them to thrive. We want them to be safe and feel loved.
    Once you conjured up those thoughts again, you can ask me anything and I’ll say yes.
    In fact, it wouldn’t be an overstatement for me to say that this is the best video I’ve ever seen from Save The Children.

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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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