Survivor’s Guilt: Should Charity Campaigns be Wary of those Affected by the Cause?

IMG_3088Tuesday night’s Celebrity Bake Off for Stand up to Cancer was a tough watch. Not because of the disastrous bakes, but for the charity campaign video in the middle of the episode. This week featured a young boy, who having survived cancer once, unfortunately passed away when it later returned. In between his diagnoses, his mother suffered and survived breast cancer, only to find out it had returned – and was now terminal at the time of recording.

Last September, my younger brother was diagnosed with cancer. He was lucky to have spotted the lump early and was processed immediately. After 6 months of tests and one operation later, he has been given the all clear. In this short amount of time from diagnosis to survivor, neither he nor my family have had time to process the disease and the impact it can have. That is until you see it in the news or on TV: even this year’s Krufts had a segment on dog cancers, which resulted in my brother walking out the room because he couldn’t face watching it. The trend in using shock tactics isn’t new, with campaigns such as “I wish I had Breast Cancer” and “I wish my son had Cancer” come to mind and leave me uneasy and resentful to the cause that they are trying to highlight, which could be equally worthy of my support.

Currently 1 in 3 of us in the UK will develop cancer over our lifetime, and this statistic is increasing to 1 in 2. However, 50% of sufferers will survive, a survival rate that has doubled in the last 40 years. We should celebrate this fact, and show the amazing impact that donations can and are doing rather than always showing the ugly, sad truth that is affecting a high percentage of your audience.

I understand the importance of showing the darker side of a cause to donors and supporters, to provoke that emotional tug which generates donations. However, those who have been through this may not wish to be reminded that one day it may come back – and that this time they might not be as lucky. My family are fortunate that it was dealt with so quickly and successfully, and this is down to amazing charities that are making a difference and constantly fighting the cause so more people will survive. Let’s celebrate this in our fundraising campaigns.

Alternatively, let’s use campaigns to highlight early detection such as Childhood Eye Cancer Trust (CHECT) a relatively small charity for a rare eye cancer. Rather than telling the shocking story “Imagine if your child never saw your face”, they used their campaign to be proactive in encouraging diagnosis with #haveyouCHECT? Resulting in more that 70,000 views, four million impressions and national newspaper coverage. Others such as Feel Yourself Campaign and Coppafeel’s #GetItOffYourChest also offer the positive message of early detection and honest communication can save lives. We should give people like my brother some sort of hope and support, rather than hopelessness and survivors’ guilt.

In true sob story fashion, please spare a thought for those who have suffered the next time you create your fundraising campaign. They still need our support.

What do you think? We’d love to hear your views. Let us know examples of campaigns you think are working.

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