What does it mean for an organization to “exploit its beneficiaries”? Exploiting beneficiaries in order to attract donations can involve depicting individuals in a way that upholds stereotypes, is demeaning, or that disregards a person’s dignity.1 A UK study by the Center for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy found that the beneficiaries of charities are concerned about the way they are represented, wishing to be depicted in fundraising campaigns without organizations resorting to the use of “stereotypes, clichés or prejudices.”1
Why is it important for organizations to be sensitive in describing those they serve and to fairly represent their needs and how these will be addressed? Nonprofit and charitable organizations exist to serve their beneficiaries. When organizations represent those they serve using images, graphics, and text, they influence not only donors’ desire to give, but also their understandings of complex social issues and of the individuals the organization serves.1 A UK study that explored the way homeless people felt about depictions of homelessness in fundraising campaigns found that beneficiaries favoured storytelling about individuals in need as well as images aimed at inciting empathy and “a recognition of common humanity” as opposed to eliciting guilt or pity as a motivation to give.1
From "Accreditation Preparation Workbook Section C: Fundraising," Katharine Zywert, Social Prosperity Wood Buffalo at the University of Waterloo, 2013.
- “User Views of Fundraising: A Study of Charitable Beneficiaries’ Opinions of Their Representation in Appeals,” Beth Breeze and Jon Dean, Center for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy, 2012.
Standards Reference Guide