- Sat, July 03 2010
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
The nonprofit Nanhi Kali, which seeks to change the lives of impoverished girls, just launched an unusual campaign with a unique storytelling gambit: an animated character whose life path is determined by the donations the organization received.
You can check out the Girl Story campaign here.
Says Nanhi Kali:
The story follows the path of a young girl named Tarla—a character based on a composite of real-life girls that Nanhi Kali has helped in the past. Tarla wants to go to school to better her life. Whether Tarla succeeds, however, is up to the viewer, as her story will progress only via audience donations unlocking new chapters. Viewers who donate will receive updated emails on Tarla’s progress and journey. They will also receive a thank you email for their contribution from Tarla herself. Should viewers choose not to donate, Tarla’s story ends there, in parallel circumstances to what happens to many girls in real life who don’t have the resources they need to succeed.
Here’s what I like about the campaign: It’s based in storytelling, it’s focused on impact and it encourages donor engagement. We need more of all of those things in our sector. Bonus points for the fact it’s also unusual.
Here’s what I’m not sure about: Tarla is an animated figure, not real, and I can’t really help her. She’s a stand-in for other girls I might help, but her story lacks the immediacy of real people for me. Fundraisers often use composites, but adding a cartoon on top of a composite and making the interaction game-like (donate to see more) seems to add further abstraction to the human impact of a gift. I asked the organization and their creative firm (Strawberry Frog) about this fact, and Creative Director, Josh Greenspan said via email:
“We knew from the beginning that we wanted an animated story. We can only guess at the psychology behind it, but frequently, animated stories are viewed as more emotional than live action ones. Perhaps the issue becomes ‘too real’ when faced with a person in need, especially a child. That said our goal wasn’t to create an animated sob story. It was extremely important to us that Tarla be a strong and determined character. Yes, she’s seen crying in the film series, but she wants your donations, not your pity. Throughout the story Tarla defies social dogma, gender discrimination, disapproving parents and more. These are not the deeds of a pathetic young girl looking for a handout. We believe that the simple animation style and gritty filmic quality provides a compelling and honest feel, while not overshadowing a truly inspirational story.”
I’m not sure that a cartoon will elicit the reactions that a real person would, but the story is certainly compelling and donors have surprised me before. So I asked about fundraising results - and was told it is too early to tell.
So, folks, what do you think? Will this work?
UPDATE: I asked Jeff Brooks of Future Fundraising Now Blog his thoughts (because I put a LOT of stock in his take) and here’s what he said:
I’ll be surprised if this works. The problem is, it’s NOT REAL. You can sponsor a real child through any number of excellent child sponsorship organizations, and they’ll give you a real story of a real child whose life you helped transform. Given that, why would a cartoon story be compelling?
The cartoon is not emotional. The strongest thing it has is fake tears. Where’s the real desolation of poverty and ignorance? Making it a cartoon just emphasizes the lack of reality here.