Here is an excerpt of the research paper from which this company was birthed from. (If interested in more, email me).
Branding with Dignity:
Examining International Relief and Development NGOs’ Perceptions and Attitudes towards Branding, and their Current Brands
Gloria Shin, 2008
False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the “rejects of life,” to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands—whether of individuals or entire peoples—need to be extended less and less in supplication, so that more they become hands which work and, working, transform the world.
—Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, p.45
“You have to think: ‘Would I like my picture, or my child’s picture, taken like this?’”
—Nikki van der Gaag, freelance writer
We have all seen these TV ads—it’s late at night, and a famous-actress-from-a-decade-ago comes on screen holding a young, emaciated child with a swollen stomach, somewhere in Africa. She pleads with you, asking you for your help. “For only a dollar a day, you can help this child,” she says.
Within the past ten years, there has been a significant resurgence of the use of these types of ads, or guilt appeals. Critics call these ads “poverty porn” or “development pornography” (cf. Gidley 2005). It has been hypothesized that the reason for their resurgence, is due to growing donor fatigue admist tough financial times. But this resurgence, occurred, despite much heart-wrenching internal debate among aid workers, throughout the 1980s; this followed the 1984 famine in Ethopia. This particular crisis brought on an onslaught of images of naked starving African babies into the Western media. While these images accomplished their goal of moving the American public to action through significant fundraising efforts. But it was not soon after these fundraising efforts, that the whole continent of Africa got grouped into being one country, and became synonymous with famine and suffering; a whole continent, who needed a the big bright white West to come save them. Such issues, raised following the famine, also stirred up questions among aid workers. Aid workers felt these images “reinforced debasing stereotypes of Africa and robbed the subjects of their dignity” (ibid, emphasis mine).
The use of these types of fundraising guilt appeals has been a common approach for international relief and development NGOs. It is as though every NGO or charity has a version of their own; whether it is via TV, direct mail, online, etc.—they permeate our fundraising environment. Upon viewing such an ad, the viewer/potential donor experiences a form of existential guilt—a form of “social-responsibility guilt,” then acts to remove the guilt through donating money to said charity (cf. Hibbert, et al 2007:725). But research shows that guilt appeal ads may have diminishing returns (ibid,726); their manipulative nature stir up a variety of questions.
First, are questions concerning the donor’s motivations—why does a person give? Does the viewer become a donor merely to alleviate their guilt, or out of true compassion, or both?? Second, are questions concerning long-term effectiveness. How effective are the use of these ads in a long-term fundraising setting; what effect do these ads have on donor fatigue? Should NGOs focus on quantity or quality of their donors; what are donors learning about the presented situations in these ads?
Lastly, are questions concerning the actual beneficiaries themselves. How are they being portrayed? If they are our top priority, as many NGOs’ founding values and guiding principles dictate, then are we upholding these values through our advertising? Are the beneficiaries portrayed in the ads being portrayed in a dignified way? Yes, it is important to inform about poverty and hunger, but are they being used merely as a means to an end? “‘You have to think: “Would I like my picture, or my child’s picture, taken like this?”’” (van der Gaag, qtd. in Gidley 2005).
As stated earlier, the effectiveness of the use of this type of photographic imagery is questionable as well. These images are akin to images of war. Susan Sontag, a noted writer and critic, has written extensively on photography and psychology, in her book, On Photography. In summary, she asks, Why do some images illicit positive responses of true empathy and compassion, and others, fall into the mass with other war images that headline our papers? An exact answer is unknown, but to any respected photojournalist/photographer, it is a matter of striking that hard balance between informing and exploiting the subject.
……… works cited and full text not incl.
He was involved in the 1980s debate about famine pictures.