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The danger in how non-profits market

Have you ever seen a Christian Children’s Fund commercial? You know… for 72 cents a day you can sponsor poor Jamal from miscellaneous Africa with flies in his eyes and a distended belly.  Have you ever considered how our view of the world and the people in it are influenced by the images in these non-profit commercials, billboards, and direct marketing campaigns?

Great marketers are great storytellers. Our job is to use the art and science of storytelling to effectively and efficiently make our client’s customers believe, trust and like them.  Just as any good novelist, we use psychology and sociology to engage our audience on an emotional level. We apply gently massaged statistics, over-the-top images and soul-daggering music to compel them not only to agree with our point of view but also to act on it.

Unfortunately, the passion and dedication of the marketers of ‘good causes’ can border on a zealousness that does more harm than actual good. The repeated one-sided story perpetuated to persuade the haves to give to the have-nots, creates an atmosphere of pity, self-loathing and racist stereotypes.

Can you envision the difficulties for a person in a society where the most desperate members of a group he happens to superficially resemble are his perceived representatives? How many of those awareness ads that masterfully play upon our sense of fear and guilt like the ones used by drug rehab programs, anti-domestic violence groups and STD awareness campaigns feature poor southern white people. – an equally vulnerable group?

I don’t know whether or not that 72 cents a day actually reaches Jamal in his tropical slum, but I do believe it could be aiding in taking away $72k from Jamal in Detroit when he applies for a job.

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