On May 11, a series of major earthquakes struck Nepal. These latest quakes came just two weeks after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed 8,000, left thousands injured and severely damaged Kathmandu. Survivors of both quakes face shortages of food and water. Many are living in tents after their homes were destroyed. We urge you to please come forward and donate food, clothes, and money to the victims to help them build their lives and homes again. (Source: Charitynavigator.org)
26-year-old Sarmila lives in a rural village called Nala, with her husband Prakash, her eight-year-old son and her parents-in-law.
She clearly remembers the moment the earthquake struck. “I was in the kitchen preparing the afternoon meal when suddenly the house began to shake. I heard people screaming and yelling outside. It was terrible.” she says. The family’s house collapsed soon after they reached safety, and for a month after the earthquake they lived in a tent on their farm, close to where their home once stood. With your support, Sarmila was able to build a new home for her and her family – giving them the chance to focus on their farming work and start thinking about the future. (Source: wateraid.org. Story pruned to suit the post)
Sarmila with her Family in Nepal
Which of the above two stories would you empathize with and donate or lend your support? If you are in favor of exhibit B, then here’s the reason why.
Three academic researchers, Deborah Small, a Wharton marketing professor, George Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon University and Paul Slovic of Decision Research, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon conducted a similar experiment to examine, what type of communication for fundraising, tugs at the heart of the donors more. And interestingly, their findings indicated that the individual story of any victim of a socio-economic or environmental evil (like in Exhibit B) attracted two times more donors than the generic ones (as in Exhibit A).
They coined this phenomenon as ‘Identifiable Victim Effect’ (IVE).
What is Identifiable Victim Effect or IVE?
The researchers found that, if people are presented with a personal case of an identifiable victim ( Sarmila in this case) along with statistical data about similar victims caught up in a larger pattern of illness/ calamity/ or socio-economic evil, the donors tend to sympathise more with the individual ‘identifiable’ victim over the mass affected population.
As a corollary, they also observed that donors prefer donating to a particular individual, the donation amount or quantity is fairly less as compared to what every person could have received had the donor helped the entire group of the affected population.
Why Does IVE Work?
If you observed the exhibits carefully, you would see the differences in the language and the words used. The terms, ‘Support/gift’ tend to appeal more to the donor’s mind than plain ‘donate.’ A general view of any cause plants a dilemma in the donor’s mind about how his/her funds would be put to use as against the specificity in Exhibit B.
Applying IVE to Visual Storytelling for Social Good Brands
Identifiable victim effect is a psychological phenomenon which, if married to visual storytelling, can produce compelling responses.
In Sustain Earth’s visual story, Krishna Reddy is the protagonist, and the story about the struggles of not having a proper domestic fuel source is being put forth through him. This visual story campaign threw very positive results for Sustain Earth in the form of visibility as well as investor funding.
Many’s story by Photographer and visual storyteller, Mia Baker, beautifully captures the bad times Many, a Khmer lady has been through and how People For Care and Learning helped her to get her life back on track. It serves a social proof for prospective donors, employees and volunteers.
Identifiable Victim Effect is applying psychology to visual storytelling. Story of an individual builds a personal and intimate connection with the target audience that no generic piece of information can. Cleverly using this effect while crafting fundraising campaigns or while describing the cause you are working for can boost your efforts.Try it and see.
Cover Image Source: http://winladen.tumblr.com/