The Nonprofit Marketing Blog

My least favorite fundraising framing: Shame

UNICEF Sweden has launched a new campaign that tells people who Tweet about their cause or like their Facebook page fail to make a difference – and could put a life in jeopardy. It’s essentially a shaming campaign, as outlined in this Atlantic article.

I don’t like to single out campaigns, but this one troubles me since it relies on emotion in a way that I don’t find constructive. Here are some examples of the campaign messages. The gist is, if you spread the word instead of donating, a boy could die and a child won’t be vaccinated. How does that make you feel?


Maybe Swedes enjoy this kind of message and approach, but I am skeptical. Here’s what I don’t like about the campaign.

1. Shame rarely inspires action in any culture. It just makes people feel bad – and turn away. Ask Brene Brown.

2. Mocking the action of spreading the word about a cause discourages one of the most powerful forces anyone can put to work for a cause – word of mouth.

3. It ignores the fact that social networks are supposed to be about relationships. It seems to be demanding a transactional mentality in a social setting.

4. I am not sure the organization did their audience research. A lot of assumptions are inherent in this approach. Are they sure people on social networks have never given to UNICEF? Do they have data suggesting social networking and giving are mutually exclusive (doubtful)? Are people active on social networks their best target audience for giving? Is forcing an either/or choice better for fundraising than letting people do both?

I bet this campaign will get people talking, but I doubt it will inspire giving. Which is deeply ironic given its message.

For a smarter way to look at so-called slacktivism, watch this. As Julie Dixon says, based on this body of research, “Influence is important.”

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About This Blog
Caryn Stein hi res

Caryn Stein
Vice President, Communications and Content, Network for Good

We’re here to help you win hearts and minds—and donations.

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