Last week, a partnership comprising more than 50 aid organizations used social media, technology and a food truck to convince young Australians to support Australian foreign aid.
The Campaign for Australian Aid sent the Fair Share food truck to 10 locations across the country. While the truck offers patrons an authentic meal of Southeast Asian cuisine for a cost they believe is fair, it also used to build a greater understanding of the achievements delivered by Australia’s foreign aid by showcasing its effectiveness in countries around the world.
The campaign is still ongoing and will run until the end of this week. But the fact that the campaign is well on its way to meeting its 8,000-signature target proves the unique formula works, campaign manager Adam Valvasori pointed out.
When Valvasori came on board as manager of the Campaign for Australian Aid last May, the campaign was meant to push Canberra to meet its foreign aid spending target of 0.5 percent of gross national income. But that target seemed impossible to achieve after the federal budget was released in the same month, which among other things brought total reductions to the country’s overseas development assistance budget to 7.6 billion Australian dollars ($7.2 billion) over five years.
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Valvasori found himself having to start a new campaign from scratch. Instead of feeling daunted, however, he took this as an opportunity to galvanize massive support for a strong message. How was he able to do this? And what lessons can he share to nongovernmental organizations that might want to launch an equally innovative campaign?
Create a unified voice
One of the factors that contributed to the success of the campaign is being able to get strong support from a significant number of similarly minded organizations. More importantly, these 51 organizations were willing to put in the work and not just offer verbal support.
According to Valvasori, the NGOs were involved in developing the message and strategy for the campaign. They’ve also helped get the message out through their own networks and communication channels.
“We now have the right frame and the right message,” the campaign manager told Devex. “While there are many years of work ahead, we have established a strong foundation.”
Valvasori said he has continually been impressed by the level of support and enthusiasm in getting their unified message to the Australian public. At last week’s campaign launch, the CEOs of these organizations themselves — which included those from World Vision, UNICEF and WWF — were present to show their support.
“The most important thing is creating one unified sector,” he said. “And we are achieving that.”
Know your audience
Identifying the target audience is critical to the campaign’s success. In this regard, open data became a valuable source of information to understand the demographics of foreign aid support in Australia.
For the 2013 federal election, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. used Vote Compass to gather the opinions of more than half a million voters on a range of issues, including foreign aid spending. The results were made public, and showed that younger, educated Australians were more likely to support an increase in foreign aid spending.
Australian universities then became the obvious target for the new campaign.
“The university atmosphere is easier for this type of campaign,” Valvasori said. “Young people are actively looking for organizations to join and are more willing to join our campaign.”
Get the conversation started
Out-of-the-box thinking is what gets the conversation started. For the Campaign for Australian Aid, this thinking resulted in a brightly colored food truck, a local celebrity and food.
“Food brings people in, and while they are waiting for their meal we have time to speak with them,” the campaign manager explained.
Social media is used to encourage further spread of their message.
The cost of this type of campaign, including the truck and food, is more expensive than a modern digital approach, but Valvasori said the benefits greatly outweigh the costs.
“There is a higher quality of conversation,” he said. “By being able to speak to people directly, we are better able to communicate the message. It is far more effective than a group mail out.”
Show the benefits
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Narrative Project demonstrated the importance of showing progress and success achieved using foreign aid. This was an important lesson that has been put into action through the food truck.
Through the truck, volunteers and the organizations involved in the campaign engaged food patrons, explaining to them how Australian foreign aid has helped address challenges in the developing world. But they also took care to make sure they are just there to inform, and not to solicit donations from them.
“Some people have become jaded with aid by not seeing outcomes,” Valvasori said. “We have been careful to separate ourselves from tin collectors. We’re not asking for money. We’re providing information on outcomes and hoping for their support.”
In just four days, the campaign met one-fourth of its target of getting 8,000 people to sign up and support the cause, stressing that they “haven’t had any negative responses.”
Have you ever participated in an innovative development campaign? How did it convince you to support its cause? Share your experience by leaving a comment below.
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