22NTC Session Proposal

From Exploitation to Empathy: Ethical Representation in Fundraising Communications


Since the term “poverty porn” first appeared in 1981, much has been said about the exploitation of human suffering to inspire charitable giving. Yet for all that we’ve learned over the last four decades, many organizations still struggle to communicate their impact in a way that authentically represents the issue and preserves the dignity of those affected by it. How do we portray our beneficiaries as their own agents of change, while admitting that they also need our help? How do we emotionally connect our donor to our clients, without simplifying their challenges or minimizing cultural differences? In a refreshing take on this provocative issue, Caliopy Glaros  invites attendees to move beyond shifts in lexicon and imagery and to embrace methods that both challenge assumptions and inspire empathy.

Learning Outcomes

  • understand how exploitative fundraising communications impact our organizations and program participants
  • tell the difference between exploitation, sympathy, and empathy in fundraising communications
  • apply 5 actions to tell more ethical and equitable stories

Session Type

30 minute session

Target Audience

Development, marketing, & communications staff who are responsible for creating and sharing stories about their program participants