Stupidly empty city reminds people why they don’t want to donate

Stupid ads

This video about the Syria crisis and linking to a UNHCR giving page is depressing.

It makes several of the mistakes typical of Stupid Nonprofit Ads, but does it with a kind of plodding, self-important, scolding spirit.

As is often true with work like this, it’s done by an ad agency. And I’ve found no evidence that UNHCR has anything to do with the work. It appears to be portfolio-padding. As if someone at the agency said, “Let’s do a project that’s fun, easy, and morally right!”

So, unfortunately, here’s what they came up with:

Or view it here on YouTube.

The first failure is abstraction. The first 34 seconds (of 75 seconds total) is scenes of New York with no people visible. It’s a long half-minute: Not really interesting, but worse, so abstract that it tells you nothing about anything (least of all the suffering of Syrian children).

We then see about 15 seconds of quick shots of what seem to be Syrian people. It ends with 15 seconds of black screen. Because apparently the no-people New York wasn’t abstract enough.

The message is entirely in titles over the video. Here’s the whole thing:

If the 1.5 million people living in Manhattan fled their homes…
… the world would notice.
1.5 million Syrian children have been forced to flee their country.
We need to notice them.
We need to support them.
We need to welcome them.
We need to care for them.
Start by sharing their story.

Practice what you preach! The ad scolds us for not “noticing” the Syrians. Yet it can’t bring itself to actually tell a concrete story about the situation. Just a specious comparison between the real crisis and an imaginary one.

If you’ve worked in international relief fundraising, you know that a manmade humanitarian disaster in the Middle East is just about the most difficult of fundraising challenges. It’s hard to get donors to respond.

But scolding them isn’t going to work. Nor will abstract images. These things combine to enter the realm of fundcrushing: anti-fundraising that discourages people from donating because the problem seems to big, abstract, and disconnected from daily life.

The way to get people to care and give is to show them real human stories and give them the power to make a difference in specific ways.

Thanks to Osocio for the tip.

More Stupid Nonprofit Ads.


Comments

4 responses to “Stupidly empty city reminds people why they don’t want to donate”

  1. I initially thought that the rapture had taken place in NYC…was glad to learn that I wasn’t “left behind.”

  2. I initially thought that the rapture had taken place in NYC…was glad to learn that I wasn’t “left behind.”

  3. I have to say that as a fundraiser and marketer, I disagree with you on this ad. By bringing a relatable metric to the table (# refugees = population of Manhattan) the prospective donor can evaluate the scale of the problem, and the end of the ad features multiple calls to action. Suddenly the donor isn’t just asked to open their wallet, but rather their mind to the gravity of the situation. Not just support, but notice and welcome. This doesn’t come across as scolding or crushing to me. I feel the sense of urgency and by showing the empty water bottle, the need is demonstrated without sublet point. It’s subtle and in my humble opinion, well done.

  4. I have to say that as a fundraiser and marketer, I disagree with you on this ad. By bringing a relatable metric to the table (# refugees = population of Manhattan) the prospective donor can evaluate the scale of the problem, and the end of the ad features multiple calls to action. Suddenly the donor isn’t just asked to open their wallet, but rather their mind to the gravity of the situation. Not just support, but notice and welcome. This doesn’t come across as scolding or crushing to me. I feel the sense of urgency and by showing the empty water bottle, the need is demonstrated without sublet point. It’s subtle and in my humble opinion, well done.

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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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