Raising Funds At All Costs? Contemplating the Campaign Strategies of Humanitarian Organizations

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    • Presentation speakers
      • Gada Mahrouse, Simone de Beauvoir Institute, Concordia University, Canada

    Taking seriously feminist philosopher Elizabeth Spelman?s (1997) contention that our emotions provide powerful clues to the ways in which we take ourselves to be implicated in the lives of others, this paper invites critical reflection on different types of emotions that are produced through contemporary humanitarian fund raising campaign efforts. In addition, it borrows from critical transnational feminist theories to also consider the economic and the ethical effects of the use of emotions in particular campaigns. Focusing on a recent fund-raising campaign used by a ‘humanitarian’ anti-violence organization based in the UK, I begin by examining how it is designed to appeal to specific emotions. Second, mindful of the increasing fiscal cuts to charitable organizations, I consider how the organization may be required to traffic in particular stories in order to raise the resources needed to offer their services. Lastly, given the widespread desensitization to violence, I consider the need for controversial strategies that attempt to stir (if not shock) public compassion. I argue that by tracing the relationships between the emotions, economies, and ethics behind certain strategies, one can glean important insights about social responsibility. Moreover, the analytical framework that I develop in this paper illustrates what Barnett and Weiss (2008) have referred to as the increasingly blurred forces of ‘destruction, production and salvation’ of humanitarian interventions.