Birds Eye View

Harnessing the power of digital advertising to foster empathy in charitable giving

By Iona Bogle, Senior Digital Account Executive

Charity advertisements aim to elicit a psychological response through storytelling, often leveraging complex emotions. In the past, they have often relied on guilt to motivate action, specifically “anticipatory guilt,” which stems from the awareness of one’s responsibility to prevent or alleviate someone else’s misfortune. However, due to the nature of this type of messaging, there are now more stringent regulations in place to reduce reliance on such guilt-provoking advertising. It is, therefore, time we focus on stronger and more effective ways to drive longer-term supporters.

In today’s digital age, where technology connects us like never before, we have an unprecedented opportunity to avoid driving action through guilt and actually focus more on an emotion that enables people to see things from someone else’s perspective.

That emotion being empathy.

Prompting empathy can be a challenging emotion to tap into. However, by leveraging the power of storytelling, personalisation, and data-driven strategies, non-profits and charitable organisations can create impactful campaigns that resonate deeply with audiences and, importantly, inspire them to take action.

In this thought piece, I will explore how to effectively utilise digital advertising to cultivate empathy rather than guilt and drive meaningful engagement in the realm of charitable giving.

1. Compelling storytelling

One of the most potent ways to cultivate empathy is through storytelling. By sharing authentic and emotionally compelling narratives, digital advertising can help individuals understand the challenges faced by those in need, thereby fostering a sense of connection, compassion, and empathy. Charitable organisations should craft stories that humanise the people they aim to assist, highlighting their struggles, dreams, and triumphs. When presented in a genuine and relatable manner, these stories have the potential to evoke compassion and motivate action.

2. Personalisation and individual impact

To drive empathy, it is essential to make charitable giving personal. Digital advertising allows organisations to create tailored experiences that resonate with specific individuals or target audiences. By leveraging data and analytics, charities can segment their audience and deliver messages that speak directly to their values, interests, and motivations. Personalisation helps potential donors see the impact they can have on a personal level, emphasising that their contribution matters and can make a tangible difference in someone’s life. 76% of consumers say that receiving personalised messaging is a key factor in promoting brand consideration and subsequent purchase intent. Utilising media owners’ real-time personalisation tools could play a crucial role in engaging an audience by drawing attention to location, weather or time of year.

3. Transparent and tangible results

Empathy can be amplified when donors witness the direct impact of their contributions. Digital advertising can be employed to showcase transparent and tangible results of charitable efforts. By sharing success stories, testimonials, and progress updates, organisations can provide evidence of the change they are making in people’s lives. This transparency builds trust and reinforces the belief that each contribution, no matter how small, contributes to a greater collective impact. Teenage Cancer Trust launched its new brand message in 2022, which aimed to highlight the real-life impact donations had on their service users through a variety of case studies and statistical messaging.

4. Leveraging social media and influencers

Social media platforms have become powerful tools for raising awareness and driving engagement. Charitable organisations can harness the reach and influence of social media by partnering with relevant influencers who are passionate about their cause. By collaborating with influencers who have a genuine interest in the organisation’s mission, nonprofits can tap into their followers’ empathy and inspire them to take action. Authenticity is key to ensuring that the message resonates with the audience and promotes empathy rather than mere promotion. TikTok can be a key channel to bring this to light, harnessing different influencers to raise awareness in short-form video content and driving trust and connection to encourage greater empathetic responses.

5. Interactive experiences

Interactive experiences can be effective in driving empathy through digital advertising. By designing engaging digital experiences that simulate the challenges faced by those in need, organisations can create empathy-building moments for their audience. This type of experience not only educates users about the issue at hand but also creates a sense of shared experience and emotional connection. This approach encourages people to empathise with the struggles faced by others and prompts them to take action to alleviate those challenges. Live streaming for charity can be a common way to engage this audience. Cancer Research UK used the fundraising platform Tiltify to encourage online communities to donate whilst live streaming gaming.

Incorporating empathy into charity digital advertising requires a thoughtful and strategic approach. By leveraging compelling storytelling, personalisation, transparency, social media, influencers, and interactive experiences, organisations can create campaigns that foster empathy, evoke emotional responses, and inspire individuals to become passionate advocates and contributors. As technology continues to evolve, so does the potential to harness its power for positive change. By effectively utilising digital advertising, we can drive empathy and ultimately make a profound impact on the lives of those in need.