SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

Keywords:

  • fundraising campaigns;
  • nonprofit marketing;
  • homelessness;
  • sympathy;
  • empathy

Abstract

There is a long-standing ethical debate regarding the ‘right’ representation of recipients in charity marketing materials that are intended to accurately define and represent social problems whilst also prompting the maximum response in voluntary income. The study presented in this article makes a contribution to that debate by highlighting the views of charity beneficiaries regarding their representation in fundraising campaigns. Drawing on data from five focus groups conducted in cities across England, we explore the views of young homeless people regarding the images of homelessness that appeared in major charity campaigns aimed at raising money to fund homelessness services. Participants displayed a high level of reflexivity, demonstrating that they understood the issues involved with homelessness and the perceptions of people like themselves that exist in the public sphere and in the consciousness of potential donors. Although the participants held the view that maximising revenues through the use of simple, eye-catching images is the prime goal of fundraising, they also expressed a desire for more nuanced campaigns that tell the dynamic stories of how people become homeless and the use of imagery that elicits empathy rather than merely arouses sympathy. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.