Leveraging Humor for Social Good

Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to gender equality, sustainable agriculture, and worldwide poverty relief.

Above image by Wander, from the film“EWG: Setting the Bar Low.”

That’s right — a humorous approach could be the marketing tactic you need to spread your nonprofit’s message and to give a friendly face to your organization.

When dealing with serious (and sometimes bleak) issues, it may seem counterintuitive to tickle your audience’s funny bone. However, putting a lighthearted spin on these issues can go a long way in improving your nonprofit’s ability to gain a following, gather funds, and ultimately change the world. Here are four ways humor can help your organization do good:

1. “Hook” Your Audience

As many marketers know, people these days are constantly bombarded with content through email, social media and elsewhere, so many tend to ignore anything that doesn’t quickly grab their attention. That’s why it’s crucial to “hook” your audience. One of the best ways to do this is to use humor, because it appears as a sort of mental trick to be figured out in order to reach the punchline, or reward. For example, our film “EWG: Setting the Bar Low” begins with an Olympic high jumper “taking the athletic world by storm” by jumping seven and a half… inches. The humorous tone is supported through music and voiceover as well, acknowledging early on that the content is perhaps somewhat less than serious. By the time the point of the video is revealed, the audience has already been hooked and is invested in learning more (and hearing more jokes).

2. Lighten Up

Your content should never communicate that your organization takes itself too seriously (even if you care deeply about the cause!). Just consider classic examples, like Sarah McLaughlin’s now-cliche PSA for SPSA. When trying to warm people up to your organization, sometimes it’s most effective to present a lighthearted, playful face, rather than a somber, stern, or preachy one. An added bonus is that humor allows you to advocate unglamorous causes without sounding silly. Just look at Blood:Water’s 2014 campaign to build latrines in Rwanda, “The Real Game of Thrones.” The organization encouraged supporters both to donate and to get the message out by snapping a picture of their own “throne” (i.e., toilet) and tweeting their best bathroom pun for the cause. Some issues — such as toilet scarcity — are often best handled with a little humor in order for people to take them seriously.

3. Spread the Word

A survey by Software Advice found that nearly one in three social media users are more likely to share entertaining or humorous brand posts than any other type. Simply put, people love humor; if your campaign makes your audience laugh, they will pass it on to others, giving your organization more publicity. Just look at the success of the Calgary Humane Society’s video “Pre-Owned Cats,” featuring a seemingly stereotypical car salesman that sells tabbies rather than Toyotas. The video has reached nearly a million views on YouTube (whereas their next most viewed video has 26,000) and has helped the organization nearly double adoptions of cats after it was released. Funny campaigns like this one have high success rates because, when people laugh, they release endorphins, making them more receptive to an organization’s message. This also causes them to associate that organization with good feelings in the future, engendering lasting positive sentiment.

Though humor can be a great marketing tool when used correctly, it is tricky to get right, and it can often backfire if not done carefully. Take, for example, this disastrous tweet by DiGiorno Pizza. If you want to craft a funny campaign for your nonprofit while ensuring that you’re doing it in a tasteful way, contact us today — we can help!



For inquiries, please contact:
William Trusting
ph: 323.230.7361
e-mail: [email protected]