Changing the narrative

When you think charity, what is the first thought or image that comes into your head?

For years we have been bombarded by the media across TV, social media, advertisements flyers, you name it, of pictures and videos of the stereotypical starving African children in rural villages, with sad faces and no clothes on, with captions purposely drafted to pull on heart strings and trigger an emotional and hopefully physical response – a donation.

With the charity sector being the second most profitable industry in the world, this tactic has clearly been working. Even a recent study taken in 2018, by Arvid Erlandsson, showed that although positive appeals are more effective in inducing favorable attitudes toward an advertisement and towards the charitable organisation, negative appeals are in fact more effective or at least equally effective in generating monetary donations.


So as a small grassroots charity who doesn’t believe in portraying negative images, at least not without context, are we paying the price? Absolutely not. For us, a child without clothes, a child without food, a child without shoes, poses more questions than answers. What is that not-for-profit actually doing with the money if this is still the case? Why after all these years of donating to the same charity does the problem seem to be getting worse, rather than better? What benefit did those children actually receive from their pictures going viral?

However, with ethics and sustainability becoming two key buzz words trending around the globe and 47 percent of the world’s population now using the Internet (UN), and being given a voice, times are changing, albeit slowly. Charities are finally being held more accountable as beneficiaries have a way of speaking out. Is this the reason why there has been a decline in charitable giving, with the younger generation questioning everything and losing faith in the sector? Who knows, only time will tell, but as an organisation, Sparkle is making it their mission to lead by example and redefine the definition and image of the word Charity. We want to show the world that if charity is done right, only a positive lasting impact is made.


By Sarah Brook

CEO, The Sparkle Foundation