What is Compassion Fatigue and How to Prevent It

The purpose of advertisements for charities is to invoke a psychological response, triggered by complex emotions usually through the means of storytelling. Guilt is a common approach that charities try to conjure out of their audience. Charity adverts want to call upon ‘anticipatory guilt’ which is the feeling of guilt that follows or precedes inaction. This is caused by the underlying awareness of one’s responsibility to avoid or help avoid someone experiencing an unfortunate occurrence. Increased sense of guilt of being responsible for others misfortune increases financial contributions. In a study, they found that in charity advertisements, guilt appeals to a stronger donation intention than with non-guilt appeals. The same study also found that the impact of guilt appeals on donation intention will be mediated by a sense of responsibility. This high sense of responsibility could potentially increase the chances of a person donating more than once as well.


A charity's advertisement induces a ‘two-sided effect,' compassion and proximity, on the one hand, and distantiation on the other. What causes the reaction of creating this emotional distance is the distrust of an advertisement or charity, or also caused by compassion fatigue. Distrust can be brought about by the ad itself, i.e., the advertisement has a high production value (this can have the audience question where their donations would be going, to the charity or advertisements). Compassion fatigue can be caused by a long advertisement with multiple examples of suffering, or too many adverts in an acute time frame. Too much guilt can be counterproductive and make audiences not want to donate, due to the consistent invasive feelings of guilt and pity.

Imagery is an important facet to a charity’s advertisement. It gives the audience a visual of the suffering, the foundation is trying to prevent or eradicate. Depictions of suffering can provide evidence of the charity’s cause, giving the audience proof that their donations are very much needed. Thus directly creating the feeling of responsibility among audience viewers. Images that express too much suffering to the point of being grotesque could turn people off from watching or looking at your charities advertisement. There needs to be a balance. A gory image can be impactful if done correctly. A common term for grotesque imagery in adverts is “shock advertising” which takes an image that is riding on the edge of unwatchable and uses it to shock people into either paying attention or donating to the cause, its depictions that will make people question why [whatever is happening in the picture] it is happening.

Positive imagery, recently, has been used a lot more, to prevent compassion fatigue. Positive imagery usually consists of how donations could help who or what is suffering. Charities can also use images of volunteers or fundraisers they have had, show a group of people willingly advocate or fundraise for a cause. Donors who are exposed to positive charity adverts made donations worth 45% more on average. A study has shown that individuals who are surrounded or are exposed to people expressing pro-social behavior have a tendency to do the same, thus making pro-social behaviour the norm. This can increase not only donations but also increase willingness to volunteer and spread awareness of your cause.

There is a thin line between being emotionally invasive enough for the audience to experience pro-social behavior and being too intrusive that people will switch to another channel or ignore the advertisement. A ‘good’ advertisement can have negative aspects to it as long as there is some ultimate goal or positive response to the issue. Good charity ads invoke emotions and give that push to support the cause instinctually. ‘Good’ advert in this context means an advertisement that increases support and draw in new supporters. DRTV adverts can do just that; these adverts are analysed in live time, and can be edited to fit the charities core message. LIKECHARITY has production team that specialises in media buying and creative management to get the most out of the advert. Usually, a good DRTV advertisement share a story that is concise while creating a foundation for the charity’s purpose. This will create a more consolidated following which means more donations.



What can DRTV do for your charity?

Throughout the life of advertising there have been many different ways to utilize marketing to convey a message to the masses. One of the most trusted has been television ads. When television ads made their debut in 1955, they changed the world of advertising drastically. Recently there has been a different type of dramatic shift in advertising. Companies are focusing more on digital than on TV but is this the right decision? Isn’t there something to be said for campaigns hitting all the areas that consumers participate in? Through research and our own personal experience here at LIKECHARITY we think that it’s vital to maintain TV ads and campaigns while make them consistent throughout for our clients campaigns.

There is a big misconception that TV advertisement is not effective anymore; however, it is quite the opposite. According to Joel Rubinson (p. 220), over the past 15 years, TV has not declined in its effectiveness at generating sales lift and appears to be more effective than either online or print at generating brand awareness and recognition. This is something that here at LIKECHARITY we see to be as true as well. Not only do we help charities increase their donations we increase their brand awareness. We utilize Direct Response Television (DRTV) to capitalize on the viewer's emotions which leads to an increase in donations for our clients. Without utilizing DRTV we would be failing to capitalize on an entire section of the population. DRTV ads are suppose to create an emotional pull the very first time they are viewed versus the consumer ads that rely on repetition.

For many years trying to get the right measurements on how to successfully track TV ads has been a struggle and may play a large role in why there is such a misconception surrounding this type of marketing. Fortunately as technology has developed, so has tracking advertising success. The tracking systems allow the advertisers to gauge what ad is effective, what time to air the advert based on when it is most effective, when it has the highest response rate and when your target audience is most likely to view your ad.

Like any kind of advertising and marketing, each piece has a specific target audience. By eliminating TV advertisement and strictly replacing it with digital, there is a huge part of the market that isn’t being capitalized on. Certain generations tend to interact with TV more than they do digital and vice versa. Of course there is overlap, which is a good thing! The more consumers recognize your brand, the more likely they are to consume your product or in the case of LIKECHARITY’s clients, donate to your organization.

There is not only one “right” way to utilize marketing and advertising but there is a lot of research that specifies which methods have proven to be the most efficient and effective. Next time your organization or charity is creating their marketing strategy, be sure to consider including DRTV!

5 Examples of Creative Advertising for Text Campaigns

At LIKECHARITY, we provide a text to donate platform to over 300 fantastic charities. Every day, we see first hand how our charities incorporate text to donate into their advertising to raise funds for their worthy causes. We consistently see charities successfully use mediums like web advertising, social media and print advertising to seek donations. Every once in a while, we see a charity use an entirely different and creative medium to raise funds and we thought we'd share 5 examples of these kinds of campaigns. 

1. Debra Ireland - BUTTERFLY Campaign

Image: Debra Ireland

Image: Debra Ireland

Debra Ireland provide support for people with Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB), a rare skin condition. For EB Awareness Week, Debra Ireland combine their text to donate service with the wearing of a butterfly temporary tattoo. Supporters receive a pack with the tattoo and a request to text BUTTERFLY to 50300 to donate €4. They've had some very famous faces take part in the campaign such as Harry Styles, Colin Farrell and Johnny Sexton. 

2. The Saoirse Foundation - BUZZ Campaign

Image: Saoirse Foundation

Image: Saoirse Foundation

The Saoirse Foundation work with people with Battens Disease, an inherited disorder of the nervous system. The Saoirse Foundation provide child-centred ambulance transport services in the form of "Bumbleances". As part of a fundraising drive, the Saoirse Foundation put their text to donate keyword, BUZZ on the side of a Bumbleance and took it on a nation wide tour.    

3. Pieta House - PH4 Campaign

Image: Pieta House

Image: Pieta House

Pieta House provide support to people in suicidal distress. To raise funds for Pieta House, a supporter decided to walk from Waterford to Belfast with a washing machine on his back, the washing machine representing the heavy load that people in suicidal distress carry. Pieta House's keyword PH4 was featured on the washing machine and people were encouraged to donate along the way.   


Image: ISPCC

Image: ISPCC

The ISPCC provide 24 hour support services to children in Ireland. To raise funds for their Childline listening service, the ISPCC partnered with Cheerios. The ISPCC's keyword BREAKFAST was featured on Cheerios boxes of cereal and in other supporting promotional materials.   



5. Heart Children - HCI Campaign

Image: Heart Children

Image: Heart Children

Heart Children support parents and families of children with a Congenital Heart Disorder. To raise awareness and funds, Heart Children decided to feature their keyword HCI on the side of a truck which travels around the country. 



From tattoos to breakfast cereal, it's clear that our charities like to get creative with their advertising. We can't wait to see where a LIKECHARITY text to donate keyword ends up next!