“Добро пожаловать в 20 век”
That’s Welcome to the 20th century in Russian. Because this week feels like we’re looking 100 years back in time.
Reports of concentration camps have surfaced. And the stories aren’t unclosed cases from Nazi-Germany, or investigations into 1940s European governments. They are stories of today. Of camps that exist as I write this.
Hundreds of gay, and possibly bisexual men have been captured, thrown into camps, tortured and some even killed in the Chechen Republic of Russia (Chechnya). The Chechen government not only deny this, but refuse to acknowledge that gay men exist in their country.
So, in the words of the chant that resonated outside the Russian Embassy last night…
“When our community is under attack, what do we do? Stand Up. Fight Back.”
As Fiona and I stood among the crowds, surrounded by pink flowers, rainbows, homemade signs and powerful chants, there was an overwhelming feeling of solidarity. Not only with those standing next to us, but with those who are thousands of miles away, who don’t share our rights. And our freedoms to love who we love and be who we are.
If our goal is to create change, is it always best to ask for money upfront? Probably not. People are sociable. They want to stand (in person or online) alongside others who share their beliefs. Together people are stronger.
Demonstrating and protesting is hands on. It’s in the moment. It is a moment. You might even call it experiential marketing.
For the likes of Amnesty and Stonewall, it’s inherent to their being. But I feel that other charities have a huge opportunity to engage their supporters to stand with them on the issues they care about. It may not create immediate donations, but it could well create long-term relationships, trust, and perhaps most importantly, change.
To show your support, add your name to Amnesty’s petition here…
I have a photo on my phone of my dear and departed dog running along the beach on a sunny day. She looks like she’s laughing and I know she was happy – and when I look at the picture I can feel that precious moment once more. It’s a bittersweet photo, but I’m so glad to have it.
We carry hundreds of those moments with us now – all we have to do is look at our phones. But how you would feel about those photos if you knew you were never going to see any of those people – your family and closest friends – again?
Millions of people across the world have left behind them homes that have since been destroyed. Their loved ones have died or disappeared. They have nothing that is familiar or comforting, until they take their phone out of their pocket.
This article about some work the photographer Alex John Beck has done recently for Oxfam renewed my firm belief that feelings can be manipulated, but they can’t be manufactured.
Empathy is so crucial to fundraising. Paint the picture, tug at the heartstrings, justify the outrage – use any and all available detail to pull the donor into the story and make them feel. And remember that sometimes the killer detail – the one that persuades a donor to give – feels the most familiar.
It is the little things that bring us together, after all.
At a time when we’re all searching for the next clever campaign that will capture the nation’s attention, whilst furiously putting the finishing touches to our traditional Christmas appeals – I have recently been reminded that much of what we do now is just the bigger, shinier version of what we’ve always done. And I was glad to see that simple, direct peer-to-peer fundraising can still be incredibly effective.
Last week a friend of mine sent a message to a few different WhatsApp groups asking everyone to read her friend Emma’s story.
Emma’s ‘a 31 year old who is trying to plan a wedding whilst struggling to beat a very rare and aggressive cancer.’ That summary hit close to home with the audience it was targeted at.
Emma’s been through a series of treatments already (hence the self titled ‘egg’) and her last hope of survival lies in receiving immunotherapy. Because her cancer’s so ‘niche’ (her words) this treatment isn’t yet available on the NHS. The treatment costs a whopping £114,000 a year and who knows how many years she’s going to need it for. So, she took to the internet and social media to tell her story and ask for help.
And boy does Emma know how to tell a story. Her page does everything we all bang on about day after day. It’s funny, heart-warming and hugely sad with a strong need and tangible solution (the ask even comes within the first 2 paragraphs). And guess what? It’s working. Within 24 hours over 6,000 people had shared her page, it had been mentioned by the BBC and the Daily Mail – and she had smashed her £150,000 target.
Read Emma’s story, give if you can and then marvel at the proof that old school fundraising, at its very best, works like a charm.
We salute you Emma. Keep up the fight.
To give to Emma’s Last Chance to Beat Cancer visit her site here