Melt first for this adorable pathetic animal, then donate please

The high level of cuddling for animals is increasingly used online by animal organizations to make money. Less interesting pictures also work, but they shouldn’t be too intense.

Lisan van Sädelhof

It was very similar to an alien creature. His skin was thin and his eyelids were transparent. Cas Aaftink had just been doing fundraising for a few months when the bald chick, presumed to have fallen from the nest, was brought to Amsterdam by Animal Ambulance. Aaftink took a picture of it, “Love Ugly,” made a Tikkie and put it online. The song “Tikkie voor Rikkie” turned out to be a turning point. Likes, Facebook followers, and cents – ranging from 5 to 100 euros per donation – continued to flow into the foundation’s bank account.

“It worked,” Aftenek says now, nearly five years later. “And Tikkie’s performance could have been less good if we kept it purely realistic.” For a number of years now, animal names and personality traits have been increasingly dedicated to Dierenambulance’s social media, which regularly sparks passions among more than 11,000 followers on Facebook, over 4,000 followers on Instagram and 7,000 followers on Twitter. The non-owning cat is called a temperamental furball, and the affected parrot is renamed Alexander. “The more character, the better,” Aftink says. And if possible, with a sense of humor.

Big increase in donations

In 2011, a Facebook message received an average of 1 to 2 likes, and now that’s increased to a hundred ratings per message. Aaftink can’t say if there was an individual relationship, but since the foundation has invested more time in social media – they now even have TikTok and YouTube – the amount collected from individuals’ donations has increased dramatically. “We are now receiving around €5 per donation, with the amounts collected at the door and the amounts being much lower.”

This basis is not alone in this. Dik Nagtegaal, Animal Protection Communications Officer, has seen that the number of animal shelters with social media accounts has increased dramatically in recent years. Five years ago, there were still shelters that did not have any accounts, or had an account, but they threw everything into them without a strategy. Now almost every shelter places their lodgings or finds pets on the Internet, including a cute suggestion text.” Such as: “loves cuddling,” “loves to be the princess and the pea,” “eats fish for life.” There are also more and more Volunteers for social media channels only They receive training on what works from the National Office.

Webb van de Donk, who has worked in the philanthropic world for years and is now at the head of WWAV, a marketing agency for the nonprofit sector, agrees, “Animal organizations know how to better and better use the power of animals.” Recently, a commercial in which the Van de Donk team collaborated was nominated for a Gouden Loeki Award. It was an advertisement for The Forgotten Child. “It’s an assumption, but I think our ad was filtered because there’s a dog inside at the end. You always see there’s an animal in winning places. Animals have everything, and animals are an emotion.”

Van de Donk refers to research by Japanese scientists, among others, published in 2015 in the journal Science has been published. This indicates that people produce the hugging hormone oxytocin when they look into their dog’s eyes. “And it’s no wonder cat videos have been so popular on the Internet for years.”

batch due to pandemic

“If it’s likeable, it’s easy to use,” says Claire van Teunenbroek, a researcher at the Center for Philanthropic Studies at the Free University (VU) in Amsterdam. The pandemic has boosted the popularity of animal organizations on social media: In times when physical contact should have been avoided, channels like Facebook have become even more important. “This is still the place to recruit,” Van Teunenbroek says.

It has undergone a transformation in recent years: animal welfare organizations not only ask, but also advance. They make people laugh, like the Poezensnuitjes Foundation (nearly 26,000 followers on Facebook), at a photo of a cat flying on a toy. “Targa is training for a wrestling match. Who doesn’t struggle with an alarm on Monday mornings?” Or they love themselves, like Ganzenparadijs Foundation in Acre (6,200 followers on Facebook) who recently posted a photo and story of Dagelbert and the Opagans, who are inseparable. When the blind Obagans walk in the wrong direction, Dagglebert sighs very loudly, warning him.Or they offer hope: Dierenthuis, for example, shows how a handicapped dog Mango is compatible with a cart behind him to replace his hind legs.

Aaftink also finds it important to show what ambulance business entails: Through updates, he’s engaged thousands of followers on the sheepdog’s journey from Ukraine, taken from the shelter to the vet and then to Schiphol, to join the refugee owner. – The animal ambulance has so far made such trips about 50 times since the outbreak of the war. “Institutions are doing this very cleverly,” Van Teunenbroek says. “Take people to the animal story by hand.” As a result, people no longer donate for “protected animals” or “poor donkeys”, no, they donated to Fikkie the dog who had already been resettled three times, or to Igor who was found emaciated.

Spending digital money is more abstract

And this donation occurs, although, relatively speaking, a small part of the donation is still devoted to animal welfare. Van Teunenbroek has met the goals presented by the Netherlands in 2020 with crowdfunding, 10 per cent of which went to the environment, nature and animals. “But the amounts are much higher online than in door-to-door collections.” At the door, the family gives an average of 2-4 euros, online 15-16 euros. This is not only for the practical reason that not always enough change is available. “Digital publishing is easier because it is more abstract. Moreover, we do not yet know how to act online. What is normal? A debit card transaction of more than 10 euros makes more sense than a debit card transaction of 4 euros.”

Plus, donors like to decide for themselves where their money goes. Van Teunenbroek: “We prefer freedom of choice. One is touched by this pathetic little motherless bunny, and the other is donating through a delightful video of kittens.”

Pathetic messages often work better with crowdfunding, according to an unpublished study on crowdfunding by Van Teunenbroek. But where is the limit? “In the past, there were organizations that came a long way in this direction,” van de Donk says. “Fried dogs are alive in Korea: you just don’t want to see it when you scroll on your phone.” Moreover, it is also misleading: institutions that hire and operate in the Netherlands, and use materials from abroad. “Pure effect. Fortunately, this is no longer a habit.”

Images of abused animals can be very severe

It can be severe, but not too much. Above all, it must be original, says van de Donk. “What the Varkens in Nood do, sharing photos from Dutch slaughterhouses: I think that’s a good thing. Here’s the truth, they show: That’s what we’re fighting against, are you too?” According to Van Teunenbroek, that could work, but you don’t know what It is the long-term effect of such images, she says. The organization also runs the risk of people submitting something once and then stopping following the page because it’s so horrible.

“We’re reluctant to put dead animals in,” Cas Aaftink says. “You can really miss the point of that. Especially when it comes to assault.” Recently, he then ran over his bangs, which were filmed from a distance, without blood. He did it for a reason: Report, watch out for the little game crossing. And recently, an injured cat, who had picked up the ambulance, was forced to sleep. “Then we reported we were there, and with that we also show: Pick up your cat and score it.” It has to be balanced, says van de Donk. Sad messages are perhaps the best way to fill your digital cupboards, but messages that you love or that show “This is what we do” have a positive effect on the image. Aaftink: “People step in, asking how the animal appeared.”

Speaking of which: whether alien Rikkie survived, Aaftink doesn’t remember, but it was taken to a bird sanctuary. Whatever happened to him, at least Ricky lives on. A picture of him still hangs in the Animal Ambulance Hall Amsterdam, with a collection box underneath and a sign – Tikkie voor Rikkie.

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