Fundraising strategist criticises 'sea of sameness' in emergency appeals

Chloë Amstein tells the IoF annual convention there has been a lack of originality in fundraising campaigns during the pandemic

Chloë Amstein during the online IoF convention
Chloë Amstein during the online IoF convention

A fundraising strategist has criticised charity fundraising emergency appeals created in light of the coronavirus crisis for being a “sea of sameness”.

Speaking at the Institute of Fundraising’s virtual fundraising convention as part of a session about individual giving strategy, Chloë Amstein said there was a “lack of originality” in many fundraising campaigns during the pandemic. 

Highlighting the appeals that went out across Facebook, Amstein said too many charities used the lines “Help us to be here” or “We’re in this together” in their campaigns.

“There is no originality in this," she said. “What we see is a sea of sameness.”

Amstein recommended that charities should instead aim to speak directly to their audience’s values. 

She pointed to a 2011 print advertisement by WaterAid, “Be the change”, which thanked potential donors for “being the change” and prompted a 45 per cent increase in the response rate.

“Be the change you want to see in the world is a famous Ghandi quote, so it already got equity amongst the audience,” she said. “It speaks directly to the audience values.”

Amstein said that, when creating a proposition, fundraisers often thought “we have to go hard hitting. We have to dial up that jeopardy and put the audience in that jeopardy to create high response rates."

But she said the success of the print advert lay in steering away from fundraising clichés.

She said: “What it does is recognise that people give to people and that people give to ideas. Be the change was a totally original idea; it’s not a fundraising cliché.”

She added that charities creating appeals during the coronavirus and the future recession should think about what their proposition was and incorporate a “powerful creative idea that can run through not just acquisition but also retention”.

Amstein said that, while developing propositions over the next two or three years, charities should ask themselves how the needs of their beneficiaries had evolved in the time of coronavirus and as a result of the recession.

“Charities are offering a way for people to change the world," she said. "Shouldn’t that feel exciting for people?”

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