There’s not a lot of good news in the news. Why?

Everyone knows that ‘no news is good news’, but the reverse – ‘good news is no news’ is also held dear by our media. In the increasingly desperate search for clicks and eyeballs, it’s stories that make us scared or angry that seem to drive the news. “If it bleeds, it leads” is almost baked into the journalistic model.

While this might be propping up a failing financial model, it’s also led to a mass collapse in trust in the media as a whole, with Edelman now reporting that media – including online platforms – is now less trusted than any other sector.

You could probably take this introduction and apply it virtually wholesale to the charity sector, certainly fundraising. It’s an almost unarguable article of faith to many that ‘need’ drives fundraising. But what we really mean by ‘need’ is constantly having to find new ways to remind people how bad things are.

Again, while this works in the short-term, it’s leading to a long-term decline in trust, relevance, results and reach.

Why?

Partly, the answer has to be shifting demographics and attitudes. As the post-war generations of seniors and baby boomers start to make up less of the population, more and more people are coming into adulthood with different mindsets and expectations. They’re used to the bad – flat wages, political chaos, inequality, climate crisis – but they’re looking for the good. Positive News’ recent issue showcased what it calls ‘the solutions generation’ – young people who are focused on compassion, fairness, diversity and opportunity. They’re not just looking for purpose, they’re making it happen, through a uniquely connected, enterprising and entrepreneurial mindset.

These people know that all over the world, extreme poverty, lack of clean water and education are now anomalies, not the norm. Yet that’s the opposite of what the collective voice of the NGO sector is telling them. And they don’t see illness, disability, or animal welfare in the same ways as their predecessors and parents.

In the commercial world, people are turning more and more to brands that help them feel good and express themselves, rather than tell them they’re inadequate without a certain product. The rise of social purpose is turning brands into positivity machines, adding emotional, social and human capital to people’s lives.

Charities may be the last brands to adopt this way of thinking – which is ironic when you consider that positive, ethical, world-changing behaviour has never been more popular among a wide range of audiences (look at Edelman’s Earned Brand Report).

So the last question to ask is this one – what’s holding you back from taking a more positive approach? If it’s just habit, assumption and it’s-always-been-that-way, maybe it’s time to ask the question. Because it’s just possible that while you’re playing to the compassion of one audience, you’re missing out on the positivity-seeking of an even bigger and more engaged one.

So, what next? Think about…

  1. Where can you add positivity to the supporter experience?
  2. What positive impression do you want audiences to have of your brand?
  3. How can you help people feel they have participated in your positive social impact?

RNIB

Samaritans