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Living proof: the power of case studies for charity copy.


Sadly, there are many needy causes in the world today. Raising vital funds for those who are suffering can be difficult with so many calls for help. It’s therefore vital to ensure that your copy stands out from the masses to grab attention, engage human emotion and motivate action.


The case for emotive copy.


Charity communications and marketing needs to make an impact on readers’ emotions – enough empathy to ensure that they are compelled to donate. After all, when parting with their cash they will not be receiving anything themselves in return. Other typical emotions relied upon in marketing and sales – desire, greed, envy, insecurity – simply won’t cut the mustard.


Donating to a charitable cause requires the donor to give to another and this can only be done with a degree of empathy and selflessness involved. The reader must be able to relate on some personal level to the case involved – be it an animal rescue appeal, starving families in a remote part of the world, or victims of war and natural disaster. In this relation, they must feel enough emotion to act upon their sympathy or empathy with direct action to help.


Living proof.


Using case studies - or life experiences – in your copy can have quite an impact on the persuasive value of your copy. Case studies are a form of storytelling in the truest sense, appealing therefore to the common humanity in us all.


Studies have shown that generalised statistics such as ‘More than 14 million people in the UK currently live in poverty” can be overwhelming to a reader. In fact they can actually be a turn-off for some people who feel that due to the scale of need, their own small donation will have no effect in solving the problem. Used incorrectly and your ‘why’ becomes a ‘what’s the point?’ in the mind of the reader.


Whilst data has its merits, a real-life story can be far more thought-provoking.


“Sarah was made homeless as a result of redundancy from her permanent job. Unable to pay her rent on time, her landlord evicted her. Although deemed ‘intentionally homeless’, due to her disabilities the local council offered Sarah temporary accommodation but she left after a short time due to threats made towards her by another resident. She now sleeps on the streets, struggling to get by and visiting the food bank when she can. Both Sarah’s physical and mental health have deteriorated significantly. More than anything she just wants a safe, warm place to live.”


A case study such as this has far more impact. It clearly lays out the situation that Sarah is in and how this happened to her. This can be a much stronger persuasion to give, perhaps even causing the reader to relate this to someone they have seen or know. Any of us could be Sarah or may have been like Sarah. Told in the 3rd person, this is effective for context.


In the case of international aid, emphasis on the common threads that connect us all in humanity is even more important, where circumstance may be unrelatable. Struggling to feed your children or keep your family safe, the death of loved ones – are universal fears and realities.


Case studies can also be used not just to relay need and provoke relatable connection but also to convey the impact and success of charitable giving:


“Our team found Sarah sleeping under a bridge. Thanks to your support, we were able to help Sarah access a place in a women’s hostel as well as appropriate healthcare and mental health support. Your donations meant we could pay for a support worker to check in with Sarah and guide her through finding a permanent place to live and regular work. Sarah recently went for a job interview and is hopeful she can get back into employment soon.”


In examples like that above, the saviour in the story of Sarah is both the charity and the donor. It places the donor, ‘you’, very firmly at the heart of being the catalyst of change in Sarah’s situation, with the charity as the authentic vehicle to deliver – once more reinforcing that relatable, human link.


Real human stories.


Using case studies such as this in your copy can be much more effective in ensuring that readers are compelled. However, it is best to avoid the actual use of the term ‘case study’ due to its impersonal and clinical nature which often undermines the need and situation. These are people’s life experiences or life stories. They are very real.


Refer instead to beneficiaries by name and keep them as ‘human’ as possible - inserting direct quotes from those who need help or have benefited from aid is perhaps the most effective way of bringing copy alive. Quotes don’t need to be more than a couple of lines if you are tight on space or wordcount. They can be put in context with emotive language about how ‘Sarah’ felt. We know she was tired, cold and hungry – but explain what this really means if the quote doesn’t go into detail. Rewriting quotes within reason is generally ok provided the main message is not lost but is always wise to check this with the beneficiary. Likewise be sure to confirm they are happy for their name to be shown or instead use an alias.


Effective case studies, direct quotes, emotive copy and context can have far more impact than dry, faceless (all be it shocking) statistics. While data can show the scale of the problem, this will always be ‘someone else’s problem’ without relatable life stories and human empathy.


If you are considering the copy for your next appeal or comms release and would like to know a bit more about using case studies, drop me a line.

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