Charities like to show empathy as a way to encourage people to give. As a result, pictures help to show donors who their money will be benefiting. However, many donors and charities wonder if it is more effective to use sad or happy imagery when trying to encourage donations? And is one more biased than another? Here’s the debate:

Happy Faces in Philanthropy

People tend to feel happier when they see other people that are happy. This feeling of happiness can extend to them wanting to keep feeling this way. Thus, donors often donate to these organizations out of their positive disposition.

Thus, charities that have campaigns depicting people with smiling faces are showing donors what their donations would do for those in need. These donations would work to maintain the smiles that are seen in the advertisements. By linking these donations with the happiness of the recipients, donors will likely feel a certain sense of accomplishment.

Advertising with Sad Faces

Sad faces are often used to boost donations as they highlight the acuteness of certain needs. Moreover, these faces show how severe a problem is, encouraging donors to give with a greater sense of immediacy. These images that show children in distress often trigger negative emotions like sadness or guilt. When donors give after they see these types of advertisements, they will likely feel a greater sense of accomplishment, as they truly believe their donation has gone on to make a difference.

Habits of Donors

When deciding on smiles or frowns for charity, it typically depends on the audience the charity is catering to. Depending on a donor’s involvement with charities, they may be more influenced by sad faces than happy faces or vice versa.

Sad images often work to encourage infrequent donors more than positive images. These sad faces remind these people that there are still others in the world that need help. They usually give out of a desire to right the wrongs in the world.

Donors that frequently give may feel overwhelmed when seeing sad pictures, as they will feel that the efforts they are already making aren’t enough. However, when confronted with happy faces, they will feel reaffirmed that their efforts are already making a difference.

The bottom line is that charities must choose the sort of message they want to communicate when deciding between happy or sad faces and which most genuinely represents their organization and its initiatives. While both have the ability to connect with donors, the donor may connect with one type of campaign more than the other – an important consideration for fundraisers.