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Charity Uses Virtual Reality Film to Take Fundraising to the Next Level

26 June 2017 at 4:12 pm
Rachel McFadden
An Australian charity has launched a virtual reality film in a bid to take fundraising to the next level.

Rachel McFadden | 26 June 2017 at 4:12 pm


Charity Uses Virtual Reality Film to Take Fundraising to the Next Level
26 June 2017 at 4:12 pm

An Australian charity has launched a virtual reality film in a bid to take fundraising to the next level.

Oxfam Australia’s eight minute virtual reality film, launched on Tuesday, tells the story of 11 year old Evelyn and her search for water in the drought-declared Turkana county in northern Kenya.

Oxfam Australia head of public engagement Pam Anders told Pro Bono News the film was an “important investment” to connect donors to the work Oxfam does and for securing donors in the future.

“The concern we have is there is a bit of donor fatigue in the market and it is increasingly challenging to compete for the donor’s attention,” Anders said.

“So we are always on the search for new and immersive ways to offer supporters an opportunity to really deeply connect with our work.”

Anders said Oxfam had been watching the rise of virtual technology with interest and with the rising accessibility of the technology and some pro bono support from Australian production companies they had decided to make the investment.

She said the investment sat within Oxfam’s quota of spending 20 per cent of income on fundraising.

“Fundraising is the key to our long-term sustainability. Fundraising expenditure is not expenditure, it is an investment in sustaining the work that we do,” Anders said.

“If you look at last year’s annual report we spent about 20 cents in every dollar that was donated to Oxfam to invest in fundraising. If you think about it from an investment point of view that investment goes towards generating better returns for us. The type of returns we get are quite competitive compared to elsewhere. Over about three years almost every cent in a donor’s dollar goes to programs.”

The film, Evelyn’s story, starts with Evelyn walking up to two hours in the search for clean water, and concludes with Evelyn and her community celebrating the arrival of clean water pumped from a solar-powered water system.

Anders said it was important to show both the need of communities Oxfam works with and the possibility for solutions.

“For us, we want to not only show the genuine need and the authenticity behind those we support but we also want to show that there is hope and there is a solution and there is something that supporters can do,” Anders said.

“For us it’s not just about showcasing need, it’s about how people can be empowered to lift themselves out of poverty and what role Oxfam plays in that.

“When we tell the story through 11 year old Evelyn we tell it through her eyes, it’s her story, her narrating parts of the story. I think that is really important. We put people and the communities we work with at the centre of our stories.”

Anders said Evelyn’s community come from the Turkana county, one of the poorest regions in Kenya and they are often referred to as “the forgotten people”.

“The film helps to amplify their story and make sure they are not forgotten, it shows both the need and the solutions.”

In the same week Oxfam launched its VR film, another charity has come under attack for using virtual reality technology.

According to media reports St Vincent De Paul Society’s annual CEO Sleepout, on Thursday, caused controversy after CEO’s were given virtual reality headsets to stimulate the experience of homelessness.

The charity, which tweeted that the sponsored new technology would give CEOs a “glimpse of the realities faced by the people who experience this everyday”, received backlash on Twitter.

“Yes! Dealing with the virtual cold, the virtual violence, the virtual hunger, the virtual untreated illnesses, the virtual despair …” one Twitter user commented.

Rachel McFadden  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Rachel is a journalist specialising in the social sector.

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