Co-authored by Averie Hah and Alan Shekhtman
Examples of How to Raise Money for Charity Using Virtual Reality
You see a pamphlet or a charity commercial about suffering kids in third world countries. Do you feel the kind of empathy that facilitates generosity, or do you feel the uncomfortable guilt that you try to avoid? At first, the shocking statistics and graphic photos worked -- the message was powerful and emotive. But after one too many pamphlets and commercials, the message is plain.
Now, pictures aren't as moving, and statistics aren't as impactful since nearly all the shock value has faded away. The issue is that most of us are so greatly distanced both physically and emotionally from those who need help. Donors are no longer as invested in philanthropic causes because non-profit organizations fail to create empathy, let alone an understanding of the problem. So what do you do now? Where does the future of fundraising lie for charities?
The answer may lie in virtual reality. The examples below show how to raise money for charity or social enterprises using virtual reality.
1. Use Virtual Reality as an "Empathy Machine"
While the biggest problem for nonprofit organizations is the physical and emotional distance between donors and those in need, the biggest benefit of virtual reality is that you can be somewhere physically and yet still be in the center of a different environment. It immerses you into a different world. This should explain why VR is the perfect solution for non-profits -- virtual reality closes that emotional distance, and already, we have so many different nonprofits and companies using virtual reality to promote and support their cause.
But is virtual reality really worth it? The costs of VR production and its actual effectiveness are questions that need to be answered. It's true, filming and post-production for VR will cost time and a lot of money. It even costs to simply watch content in VR (from $2 cardboard boxes to a $200 cyber mask). As Felix and Paul's CGI marketing director Mochizuki describes it, the effectiveness of Virtual Reality is the $64,000 question.
The answer? It does pay to use VR. As you can see in the graphs above, donors pledged $3.8 billion in aid to people affected by the Syria crisis after showing "Clouds Over Sidra," a VR production that was shown at the Third International Humanitarian Pledging Conference, easily surpassing the projected amount of $2.2 billion. To further prove the effectiveness of VR as a fundraising tool, UNICEF is pilot testing the production with its face-to-face fundraisers on the streets of 40 different countries. To date, one in six people viewing the experience have made donations to UNICEF, twice the standard rate of giving.
Clearly, Virtual Reality's ability to teleport someone and allow them to connect with their new surroundings -- whether it be the aftermath of the disastrous earthquake in Nepal or an Ethiopian girl's journey for water in 90 degrees heat -- generates empathy, and in turn, revenue. Once your donors start to empathize with your cause, then they can start connecting with those they are helping, and really understand the root of the problem.
2. Allow People to See the Impact They Are Making
How do you believe that you really planted a tree halfway around the globe, and that the child you are sponsoring really is getting the education and supplies that you are paying for? For charities, there will always be a demand for real evidence of the impact that donors are making. Again, virtual reality can be the perfect solution.
For example, TOMS, a leading social enterprise, has seen the results firsthand. Mycoskie, the founder of the company, said "Ultimately, whether you're a nonprofit or a social enterprise like TOMS, the most important thing is for our customers and donors to understand the real impact they can have." Through virtual reality, people are no longer helping strangers. Instead, they are now helping acquaintances and friends. Once donors witness how big of a change they can make, people are more inclined to take greater measures to help.
3. Go From Empathy to Action Using Virtual Reality
Beyond generating empathy and asking for money, virtual reality can help you put people in action. Although it'd be great to take all potential volunteers on a trip to get all the help possible, most non-profit organizations and social enterprises lack the resources. This is where VR comes in, as its use can extend far beyond just promotional purposes. "It can also be great for motivating and training fundraisers who can experience the situation on the ground through virtual reality, which is much more cost-effective than taking them on expensive trips to the field," as The Guardian's Becky Slack wrote. UNICEF's Innovation co-lead Fabian also explained that once people start to understand the situation and truly connect with others, "[t]hen we can design activities that are really out there to ask people to use their brains and use their hands and their capacity to help us solve certain problems. That's a very different thing than just saying, 'Hey, give money, this thing is really sad.'"
The sad truth of today's charity work is that it's hard to get people to care. In this busy world, it's hard to communicate your cause, and it's even harder to connect people. As seen in the above mentioned examples, it is time for non-profit organizations and social enterprises to leverage the true benefit of virtual reality. Like Chris Milk of VRSE says in the following video, "[Virtual Reality] is a machine. But through this machine, we become more compassionate, we become more empathetic, and we become more connected, and ultimately, we become more human."
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