Stupid waste of donated space won’t help many kids

Stupid ads

By itself, this Wall of Hands campaign for the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation isn’t stupid enough to get my attention.

It’s far, very far, from smart. It suffers from a deadly level of abstraction: It’s a campaign to help improve literacy among indigenous Australian kids in a specific community. So far, so good. But rather than get specific about the need and its solution, they collapse it all into one ambiguous symbolic act: raise your hand.

Okay. Hand raised.

Boy do I feel better.

High concept, low communication. This is a common problem in fundraising when you don’t pay attention to what it really takes to motivate people to give.

ALNF_wallhands

But here’s where the real stupidity of this campaign really balloons out to newsworthy levels. You can read about it at B&T, and Australian ad-industry publication here: Charity raises outdoor and digital advertising.

A lot of outdoor advertising is being donated to the Wall of Hands, including whiz-bang interactive touch screens that allow people to “raise their hands” in shopping malls:

Shoppers can use the screens to take pictures of themselves raising their hands in support of the campaign with supporters able to share their photo on the big screen.

The value of all that donated space: $1.6 million. The fundraising goal: $40,000. That’s a return-on-investment of 0.025, or 2-1/2¢ for every dollar. (And that’s just the value of the donated space. There are a lot of other costs.

(A more recent comment on the story claims that the correct fundraising goal is instead $400,000. That lifts the expected ROI to a majestic 0.25. I’m just guessing here, but I bet the $40,000 is the more accurate one.)

In other words, this campaign is projected to be a complete waste of time and effort. It’s just an exercise in creativity, using a worthy cause to prop itself up.

You might say, “Why sniff at $40,000 free from the campaign? No harm done, and some meaningful good will happen.”

That’s only if you don’t count time wasted by the charity, opportunity lost because they’re doing this instead of something that would actually raise serious funds, and the terrible cost of making meaningless noise in the marketplace.

It’s another shameful example of the ad industry taking a nonprofit to the cleaners — and being thanked all the way.

Thanks to alert reader Clarke Vincent of Pareto Fundraising for the tip.

More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.


Comments

10 responses to “Stupid waste of donated space won’t help many kids”

  1. This is what happens when non-fundraising agencies make campaigns and charities either don’t dare speak up (“OK, I guess Big Famous Agency knows their shit better than we do”), or don’t know enough to know that this is what will happen.
    “Normal” agencies are good at making campaigns that catch a good deal of attention. They are absolutely shitty at making campaigns that actually make money.
    Thanks for a great blogpost!

  2. This is what happens when non-fundraising agencies make campaigns and charities either don’t dare speak up (“OK, I guess Big Famous Agency knows their shit better than we do”), or don’t know enough to know that this is what will happen.
    “Normal” agencies are good at making campaigns that catch a good deal of attention. They are absolutely shitty at making campaigns that actually make money.
    Thanks for a great blogpost!

  3. Dear Mr. Brooks,
    I wanted to address this blog post of yours regarding our Wall of Hands Indigenous literacy appeal.
    Your post has some important factual errors that have damaged the reputation of our appeal, our organisation and our pro bono supporters. It also ultimately damages the opportunity for these remote communities to receive assistance through ALNF’s literacy programs.
    Firstly, you refer to an article in B&T magazine that incorrectly published our 2013 appeal target as $40,000. It has always been $400,000 and as you can see from looking at our home page http://www.wallofhands.com.au we are already more than half way to achieving it. You quoted $40,000 as the appeal target then later you acknowledge that this figure was incorrect – but then go on to say ‘I’m guessing here but I bet the $40,000 is the more accurate one.’ A simple visit to our website would have shown you that this is just not true. B&T have now acknowledged this error and have apologised and amended the article.
    You then calculate our return on investment as either 0.025 or ‘a majestic 0.25.’ Presumably, this is based on either $40,000 or $400,000 as a percentage of the $1.6 million estimated outdoor media spend. The fact is, this media space was contributed on a pro-bono basis – it did not have a cost to the ALNF, beyond a much smaller discounted printing cost, which was offset by a corporate sponsor who appeared on one of the billboards.
    The digital screens quoted in the B&T article were part of a launch event aimed at building awareness for the appeal and adding value for our major corporate partner, the Outdoor Media Association. These screens were a very small component of the overall campaign, which is all about raising funds.
    This campaign has never been about just ‘raising a hand.’ That advocacy action has always been linked to a donation, which is linked to the very tangible work we do with Indigenous children. Since it’s launch four years ago, the online campaign has raised over $1 million and is one of the most successful online appeals in Australia.
    We are a very small and lean organisation. Our pro bono agency, Elevencom, is also a very small agency of 6 people. They created this campaign and have donated many weeks of work every year to help bring it to life. Elevencom has extensive experience in direct response advertising and works in partnership with our specialist digital fundraising partners, Elevate Fundraising. Elevencom has never sought to win awards for the work they do for us. They are solely focused on the task of raising money to help us in our work to close the shameful Indigenous literacy gap in Australia.
    I am happy to discuss this with you at any time, but I would appreciate you correcting the factual errors outlined above as soon as possible before more damage is done to this important campaign.
    Yours sincerely,
    Kim
    Kim Kelly
    Founder & Executive Director
    The Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation

  4. Dear Mr. Brooks,
    I wanted to address this blog post of yours regarding our Wall of Hands Indigenous literacy appeal.
    Your post has some important factual errors that have damaged the reputation of our appeal, our organisation and our pro bono supporters. It also ultimately damages the opportunity for these remote communities to receive assistance through ALNF’s literacy programs.
    Firstly, you refer to an article in B&T magazine that incorrectly published our 2013 appeal target as $40,000. It has always been $400,000 and as you can see from looking at our home page http://www.wallofhands.com.au we are already more than half way to achieving it. You quoted $40,000 as the appeal target then later you acknowledge that this figure was incorrect – but then go on to say ‘I’m guessing here but I bet the $40,000 is the more accurate one.’ A simple visit to our website would have shown you that this is just not true. B&T have now acknowledged this error and have apologised and amended the article.
    You then calculate our return on investment as either 0.025 or ‘a majestic 0.25.’ Presumably, this is based on either $40,000 or $400,000 as a percentage of the $1.6 million estimated outdoor media spend. The fact is, this media space was contributed on a pro-bono basis – it did not have a cost to the ALNF, beyond a much smaller discounted printing cost, which was offset by a corporate sponsor who appeared on one of the billboards.
    The digital screens quoted in the B&T article were part of a launch event aimed at building awareness for the appeal and adding value for our major corporate partner, the Outdoor Media Association. These screens were a very small component of the overall campaign, which is all about raising funds.
    This campaign has never been about just ‘raising a hand.’ That advocacy action has always been linked to a donation, which is linked to the very tangible work we do with Indigenous children. Since it’s launch four years ago, the online campaign has raised over $1 million and is one of the most successful online appeals in Australia.
    We are a very small and lean organisation. Our pro bono agency, Elevencom, is also a very small agency of 6 people. They created this campaign and have donated many weeks of work every year to help bring it to life. Elevencom has extensive experience in direct response advertising and works in partnership with our specialist digital fundraising partners, Elevate Fundraising. Elevencom has never sought to win awards for the work they do for us. They are solely focused on the task of raising money to help us in our work to close the shameful Indigenous literacy gap in Australia.
    I am happy to discuss this with you at any time, but I would appreciate you correcting the factual errors outlined above as soon as possible before more damage is done to this important campaign.
    Yours sincerely,
    Kim
    Kim Kelly
    Founder & Executive Director
    The Australian Literacy & Numeracy Foundation

  5. Luke Edwards Avatar
    Luke Edwards

    I work with ALNF on the digital side of the campaign and just want to address one point made on your post.
    You point out that using the call to action to ‘raise your hand’ is:
    – ‘an ambiguous symbolic act’
    – ‘very far from smart’
    – ‘presents a common problem in fundraising when you don’t pay attention to what it really takes to motivate people to give’
    But that single call to action has proven to increase conversion rates by up to 300% (when tested against ‘donate now’ and similar terms) and is a key reason this campaign has raised over $1m and is one of the most successful online appeals in Australia.
    So I guess the Wall of Hands is a very smart example of what does motivate people to give…

  6. Luke Edwards Avatar
    Luke Edwards

    I work with ALNF on the digital side of the campaign and just want to address one point made on your post.
    You point out that using the call to action to ‘raise your hand’ is:
    – ‘an ambiguous symbolic act’
    – ‘very far from smart’
    – ‘presents a common problem in fundraising when you don’t pay attention to what it really takes to motivate people to give’
    But that single call to action has proven to increase conversion rates by up to 300% (when tested against ‘donate now’ and similar terms) and is a key reason this campaign has raised over $1m and is one of the most successful online appeals in Australia.
    So I guess the Wall of Hands is a very smart example of what does motivate people to give…

  7. I am a partner in Elevencom, the advertising agency who originally created this campaign with the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation. We have been working on this project pro-bono for four years now – no-one taking anyone to the cleaners here.
    As you can imagine I was shocked by your attack on our appeal. The fact that you didn’t appear to check your facts or even visit the Wall of Hands website before publically trashing it was disappointing.
    But the fact that you haven’t even bothered to respond when obvious errors have been pointed out to you has left me bewildered.
    Just for the record, we have zero interest in awards and a total focus on raising as much money as possible to help more aboriginal kids learn to read.
    I am always open to constructive criticism and new ideas to improve our fundraising efficiency. But inaccurate public commentary like this does nothing but damage our campaign’s credibility and limit our ability to reach more kids.
    Please publish a correction of the errors outlined above before more damage is done.

  8. I am a partner in Elevencom, the advertising agency who originally created this campaign with the Australian Literacy and Numeracy Foundation. We have been working on this project pro-bono for four years now – no-one taking anyone to the cleaners here.
    As you can imagine I was shocked by your attack on our appeal. The fact that you didn’t appear to check your facts or even visit the Wall of Hands website before publically trashing it was disappointing.
    But the fact that you haven’t even bothered to respond when obvious errors have been pointed out to you has left me bewildered.
    Just for the record, we have zero interest in awards and a total focus on raising as much money as possible to help more aboriginal kids learn to read.
    I am always open to constructive criticism and new ideas to improve our fundraising efficiency. But inaccurate public commentary like this does nothing but damage our campaign’s credibility and limit our ability to reach more kids.
    Please publish a correction of the errors outlined above before more damage is done.

  9. Martin Paul Avatar
    Martin Paul

    I share your concerns about naive charities being exploited by big agencies with no real idea about fundraising. However, that isn’t the case here. I was involved in offering fundraising advice early on to make sure the campaign built long term relationships and sustainable revenue.This is a classic two step acquisition process as used by many leading charities Oxfam Uk, Amnesty Australia etc). Firstly find those people who care about the issue (which is of low awareness and concern in Australia). Get them to give a small donation as a qualifier then convert them to ongoing giving. This campaign is better than most others as it also uses a friend get friend approach to get the donor to help identify their peers who also care about the issue. This was an issue that was not even on the radar until the Wall of Hands appeal started but is now not only raising funds but asserting political pressure on government. The ALNF have built a database of supporters and a constituency of people who care – which is pretty good for a tiny organisation no one had ever heard of.
    I know both the team at Elevencom and Elevate and know the huge amount of work they have put in to the campaign for very little personal or professional benefit. They are not BIG agency in their size or more importantly their mindset. Now you know what it is really about I look forward to hearing that you have made a decent donation!

  10. Martin Paul Avatar
    Martin Paul

    I share your concerns about naive charities being exploited by big agencies with no real idea about fundraising. However, that isn’t the case here. I was involved in offering fundraising advice early on to make sure the campaign built long term relationships and sustainable revenue.This is a classic two step acquisition process as used by many leading charities Oxfam Uk, Amnesty Australia etc). Firstly find those people who care about the issue (which is of low awareness and concern in Australia). Get them to give a small donation as a qualifier then convert them to ongoing giving. This campaign is better than most others as it also uses a friend get friend approach to get the donor to help identify their peers who also care about the issue. This was an issue that was not even on the radar until the Wall of Hands appeal started but is now not only raising funds but asserting political pressure on government. The ALNF have built a database of supporters and a constituency of people who care – which is pretty good for a tiny organisation no one had ever heard of.
    I know both the team at Elevencom and Elevate and know the huge amount of work they have put in to the campaign for very little personal or professional benefit. They are not BIG agency in their size or more importantly their mindset. Now you know what it is really about I look forward to hearing that you have made a decent donation!

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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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