One thing you will learn if you’ve ever studied or been provided charity marketing training is that donors are more likely to give to your cause if instead of sharing statistic about the vast numbers of people suffering from a particular aspect of extreme poverty; you share a story about a single individual and what the suffering is which they go through in their daily life.
Although this philosophy in inspiring generosity has been proven be effective for generating that pull of the emotional heart-string to perhaps promote, perhaps guilt someone into donating their dollars to your cause I think that there is a complete lack of rationality and vision in this approach.
The story of a single individual elicits the capacity for others to see themselves directly connected with what another person goes through in their life. We hear about “Jane Smith” walking 8 miles everyday simply to procure the contaminated water her family needs to survive for one more day, and we can identify with her not necessarily through our own experience, but by the fact that we see her humanity. When presented with statistics like the one that 1 billion people on earth have daily routines like Jane Smith’s, to greater or lesser degrees of effort, and vast statistic passes over our brains. It’s a number truly too large for us to wrap out minds around.
I think this general perception of “emotions over reality” could be doing a great disservice to the problems of poverty we face and the solutions we need to support to solve problems in our world and see that all people have the basic needs of life met. We hear politicians often utilize this philosophy when they tell us about an individual who benefited from a particular piece of legislation that the same politician just so happened to have said would help people. But of course in any case of action we can find those who benefit and those who have been harmed, which speaks to the narrow-minded-folly of believing int he individualized story philosophy of marketing.
A statistic of 1 billion people lacking access to clean water should actually magnify and multiply our emotions of what we feel for that Jane Smith walking 8 miles for a bucket of contaminated water. In fact, it should multiply that feeling by 1 billion. When we hear the numbers we must see beyond their symbolic abstract representation into the 1 billion faces. My call is not to reject our emotions, but to fully embrace as they should be felt so that we may see the global picture of what is happening in our world beyond the advertising gimmick created in hopes of getting a few more people to give to our cause.