Disaster fundraising at its worst

After the earthquake in Haiti, it didn’t take long for the bad fundraising messages to crawl out of the woodwork. Here's an example of run-amok abstractionism, from the People of The United Methodist Church. I’m guessing that they had some help from an ad agency on this one. Who else could have screwed up such a simple and compelling message?

Written by
Jeff Brooks
May 14, 2013

First, you will notice the astoundingly unreadable design. It’s as if they have deliberately thought of all of the things that reduce the readability of a text: all caps, sans serif font, reverse type, typing over an image, extra-wide leading… And decided to use them all in one layout.

But the stupidity doesn’t stop there.

While most normal humans understand and interact with other humans by looking at their faces, this ad seems to think connection happens when you put your face five inches away from somebody's hands.

‘Pores, wrinkles. They'll make people feel the connection.’

Furthermore, the clever splicing of the two photos makes it seem like we’re looking at some creepy, double-ended, free-floating fingers. Are they trying to startle us into action?

Of course, the poor design isn’t the worst thing. When you actually manage to interpret the copy, it reads like a bad haiku:

Of all the things earthquakes can destroy the human spirit is not one of them.

Never before have philosophical abstractions moved people into action. I wonder why they thought it would work this time. And why have they hidden the second call to action (which actually does make sense) at the very bottom of the page? Then, when you follow their suggested URL,10thousanddoors.org, you arrive at a webpage that is about lots of things, not just the disaster in Haiti. Their message doesn’t get any clearer or more concrete in their video either.

About the author: Jeff Brooks

Jeff Brooks

Jeff Brooks, creative director at TrueSense Marketing, has served the nonprofit community for more than 20 years, working as a writer and creative director on behalf of a variety of organisations, including CARE, Bible League International, World Vision, Feeding America, World Relief and dozens of urban rescue missions and Salvation Army divisions. He blogs at Future Fundraising Now, podcasts at Fundraising is Beautiful and is a columnist forFundraising Successmagazine. In previous careers, he's been an English teacher and a classical musician. He lives in Seattle in the USA.

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