This picture, "old man eating", or one like it, is common in rescue mission fundraising during this time of the year. The Donor Power Blog describes the problem with it. Studies show that this kind of picture is the most effective in generating donor giving even though the old man is not typical of the residents of most of our shelters and missions. Most tend to be women and young adults. Yet the OME outperforms pictures of women and children every time. The dilemma is, if this is what touches people's hearts and motivates them to give, should we use it for the sake of moving the ministry forward financially, or should we try to educate our donors regarding the actual face of homelessness? It is a dissonance we face often at Breakthrough. Here's a quote from the blog...
So what are you going to do?I would add that we need to do both, reach donors where they are, but also try to move them to a deeper understanding of the issues of race, poverty and homelessness. That is why we started the BUILD program. You can sign up now for groups to start again in January.
Stubbornly insist on showing the "real" more typical need -- and cripple your ability to do your work by decreasing the number of donors who join you? That would be malfeasance. It would lead to more suffering.
Spend a zillion dollars trying to "educate" every donor in America about the real problem? That won't work -- anyway, they already know.
The Donor Power solution: Meet donors where they are -- not where you wish they'd be. Put forth the need that motivates them to respond. Then, you'll find, you earn the right to have the conversation with them about what you do, and who you (and they) serve. Those who are ready to move beyond the gut reaction to OME will do just that.
Can anyone help me understand why this picture motivates people to give?