Is it possible to fundraise without othering?

Another week, another horrible awareness raising campaign.

On the surface, this one looked like fun. Dress up as a superhero for children with muscular dystrophy. But, scratch a little deeper and you find this. Imagine, for a moment, that you are the parent of a child recently diagnosed, or a person recently diagnosed, how would you feel about being told that your body is your mortal enemy?

When someone shared their horror at this campaign on Facebook, a representative from that organisation saw fit to try and defend the campaign, but the words used in their rather lengthy defense were quite interesting. Among them were these little gems:

“By using this theme we are teaching others how to incorporate this lesson into real life that they can be that person, that superhero, simply by caring about others and fighting for the needs of others…”

Really? Caring for people makes you a superhero? Really?

“If you think we can do our job better, well come and help us, get involved, come volunteer…”

This happens a lot. Paid employees of organisations that raise awareness often tell people who take exceptions to their campaigns that they should volunteer. Why should they volunteer their time when people who are getting paid aren’t doing a great job?

“…what you need and what an organisation in order to get support to operate are two separate things”

That’s the problem, isn’t it? What an organisation needs and what an individual that the same organisation claims to support are different. So, the question that must be asked is who is the organisation supporting?

All these organisations who raise awareness by making disabled people into objects of fear and/or tragedy – who are they really supporting? Where is their funding really going? Does it go to the people that it uses as the subject of its awareness raising activities? Does it go to raising more awareness, therefore more funding to raise more awareness?

Every time that people who actually live with whatever an organisation is raising awareness about say “hey – we don’t like this!”, they get told that it’s not for them. Then, who is it for really?

But, then, the naysayers ask “if we can’t make disabled people all scary and we can’t create this guilt-inducing narrative, how can we raise money?” This is the thing that really, really annoys me. This belief that in order to fundraise, you have to be a fear mongerer. “Look at this really scary thing that could happen to you, but hasn’t because you’re a perfectly abled person! Now give us your money!”

There are other ways to raise money that don’t make disabled people into ‘others’. Here’s one that shows that it is entirely possible to explain why money is needed, what that money goes towards, and how it actually benefits the people involved. It doesn’t invoke fear or pity.

People don’t need any more awareness. People need to be told what they can actually do to help without having to buy a gimmick because gimmicks don’t help.