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This is a great post that should be read by all charity fundraisers working in International Development. I think you'd find that 'shock' still works to a certain extent when channeled through traditional news outlets like the BBC, but when attached to fund raising campaigns they can come across as tired, cynical and manipulative.

Thanks for this thoughtful post. The 'compassion fatigue' argument is complex, and it is good that you bring some evidence to this (many don't and just make assumptions). Maybe we should call it 'lack of solution fatigue' instead, as this appears to be the real problem? I would suggest that we need 'problem, solution, progress, action' rather than one or the other. Many NGO products are 'broken' yet there is much less scrutiny of this from supporters than you would expect. This makes me question what the NGOs are selling, and why people are buying it? Having worked in a major INGO for ten years I can say that evaluation, although institutionalised is not the driver that is should be.

Your last two paras are bang on. Resistance to traditional NGO advocacy is now generating different approaches. Either upping the ante (more shocking or slicker), or selling in a different way (what has been termed the post-humanitarian sensibility). This re-packaging brings its own problems, but there is a move from problem to solution. It is important to understand that NGOs see support in 'layers' - from core volunteer activists to the one off donor - and the visual media / communications they use for one will be quite different for the other.

Is it possible to post a link to the study that you mentioned?

Unfortunately, we did not publish the study. We've briefed many aid organizations, including USAID, on the findings and framework. But it could clearly be of use to a much wider audience. I'll speak to my colleagues at Gates to see if we can post something. In the meantime, drop me an e-mail if you'd like to learn more. And thanks for your support.

@Rob Godden
Great points, Rob. Especially re 'layers' or audience segments. Many of us working in this field are very quick to criticize creative that may be intended for an audience very different from us. Nonetheless, NGOs do a pretty poor job managing their brand. Different messages to different targets is the right approach, but the brand has to be coherent and stand for something that all interested parties can get behind. The new MSF ad was clearly not meant for people working in or studying international development. But it still reached them. Consequently, aid/development blogs and twitter have lit up with commentary about it (mostly negative). This all contributes to the narrative surrounding MSF and the meaning of their brand. MSF, or McCann, should understand that audiences are now active meaning makers of brand identities. But it seems safe to say that MSF lost the forest for the trees on this one. And more importantly, they missed an opportunity to enlist a highly engaged audience in their advocacy. If given the right content, those criticizing MSF are equally prone to commend MSF and help spread their message (i.e., free media).

Just discovered your blog. And I see it is pretty new.. Welcome to the blogging world? ;-)

Keep going!

Can we include you on the blogroll on www.aidworkers.net (pse answer me via email)



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