VR empathy

Empathy in VR: Transforming the Future of Fundraising

Nowadays, it can be quite easy to get ambivalent about important causes. We can empathise on some level but as much as we want to understand, it’s difficult to fully experience or appreciate the cause that we’re championing.

“Charities could be using VR experiences to create a more emotive and real appeal.”

Now, with the advent of Virtual Reality, comes a new way to connect with an audience. A fresh medium, for charities to communicate the vital work they do. Allowing a viewer to understand a cause from the inside and actually see through someone else’s eyes, VR content has the ability to go beyond an appeal film and create a far more immersive experience – to highlight the plight in a more emotive way. And there are already a couple of forward-thinking causes who are exploring the applications VR technology could have in fundraising.

 Virtually Giving

The art of giving is something we’ve chatted about before, when we delved a little into the mystical craft of brand story telling in virtual reality  and the experience is even more relevant now, as it was then.

Ethical shoe company, TOMS, enabled those who support the cause, the chance to see first hand, through the power of VR, what it’s like to go on a Giving Trip. And since then, they’ve continued to experiment with the medium, finding new ways of reaching their supporters and enabling them to empathise with those they help.

“Enabling customers to fully appreciate the tangible impact they’re having”

In their most recent film, they encouraged people to take a “Walk in their shoes” and see the story from the perspective of someone who’s been touched directly by the cause. In full 360 degree surrounds, you watch a customer travel from California to Colombia, to meet the very child who benefitted from the pair of shoes they bought on that sunny day back in Cali. Taking their experience to the next level, TOMS also gave away 100,000 Google Cardboard headsets with their shoes, to enable their customers to fully appreciate the tangible impact they’re having. It’s this sense of connection and reality, that sets Virtual Reality production up for an exciting future in fundraising.

Virtual Reality Empathy

Another virtual reality experience, showing exactly how much value VR tech could add in creating a sense of empathy, is the United Nation’s “Clouds Over Sidra” project. Teaming up with charity giants UNICEF, they created an experience to fundraise for those affected by the crisis in Syria and received remarkable results.

Driving to see how far empathy could go, their mini-documentary followed the life a 12-year-old Syrian refugee, to help fundraisers across the other side of the world understand more about the situation, those they’re fundraising for are in. It boosted philanthropy by enabling viewers to connect more with the subject and raised a staggering $3.8 billion in fundraising, from those who watched the ‘Clouds Over Sidra’ experience – achieving 70% more than was projected.

 “One in six people who viewed the VR experience have made a donation to UNICEF”

 In fact, to this date, one in six people who viewed the VR experience have made a donation to UNICEF – more than twice the standard rate of giving. Whereas an average of 8.3% of people usually donate after an UNICEF appeal film or campaign, after VR, that figure rose considerably to 16.6%. If you’re looking to drive real donations and create that sense of empathy, as in the case of UNICEF’s ground breaking experience, VR content could be the way to connect.

Fundraising for Education

Last but not least, is a VR film crafted by for-purpose education organisation, Pencils of Promise. With the power to transport viewers to a world they’d never ordinarily see, without leaving their own home, virtual reality enabled PoP to connect fundraisers with the cause they were championing, on a far more personal level.

Shown in a bespoke classroom environment, to mirror the type of school location featured in the film, the experience physically and virtually transported viewers to a school in rural Ghana, showcasing how their support could help to transform education. Through VR, potential ambassadors witnessed the state of the education before support from the charity and how the dilapidated structure was unsafe to be taught in.

“It’s a perfect example of how technology can actually make us more human and provide real connections to issues”

Creating empathy and inspiring supporters to take action, the experience raised over $1.9 million alone on gala night and highlighted exactly how crucial their help could be. It’s a perfect example of how technology can actually make us more human and provide real connections to issues, which we might otherwise never experience.

With all this in mind, virtual reality is perfectly poised for fundraising. Allowing viewers to empathise from a first person perspective and see how they’re having a positive impact, all round the world, is an incredibly important part of charity’s future. If organisations keep developing these kind of engaging experiences, which tell real, relevant stories, we could all be on our way to a much deeper understanding of these truly important causes.

Do you have an experience in mind? 
Amy Durrant

Amy Durrant

Amy is a copywriter and all round creative type at Pebble Studios. With bundles of agency experience at Karmarama and her past life as a music, technology and design journalist, she has a love for all things creative.

Creative, Pebble Studios

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