Appearances are important
Love Island is all about appearances. The participants are all beautiful with toned bodies, fantastic teeth, a great set of muscles and looks to die for. Many in the charity world (and my mother in law) may sniff at such a shallow programme. The reality is that far more people talk about Love Island than the latest charity policy issue or newsletter. This is why the brand, the appearance of charities matter so much. They need to be appealing and attractive, interesting and intriguing, charming and fun in order to compete for public interest, with those contestants on Love Island.
Being the right type is important
In the interviews with contestants they all have a type that they are looking for. Great muscles. Blond. Brunette. Fun. Like a good laugh. The list goes on. The same is true for people when they choose which charities to support. It tends to be that somebody like a cause and then find a charity to match. They want to support an animals’ charity and then support PDSA, Blue Cross and Battersea. They pick a cancer charity and then support CRUK or Macmillan. This matters because if people don’t know how to categorise your charity they may not know why to support you. If people don’t know that you have the charity equivalent of an amazing six pack, how are they ever going to support you?
We all like a choice and a good experience
There is no doubt that Love Island can be a cattle market. The men parade in front of the women (I thought snog, marry, pie particularly undignified). And the women in front of the men. There is lots of choice and lots of ways to get to know those you fancy. So while Love Island relishes the choice it provides. Charities aren’t so good. How many charities provide just a few ways of supporting it: one type of membership, one type of donor and so on. In a world which is full of choice (87,000 choices of drink at Starbucks) charities can often appear that their approach to choice comes from a bygone era. Meanwhile Love Island keeps on piling on the contestants.
No relationship can be taken for granted
As poor old Laura discovered no relationship is for ever, and in the case of hers with Wes, it was about 48 hours. Then Wes was kissing Megan. In the Love Island villa its all very obvious and brutal. There is nowhere to hide. When charities get dumped by their supporters its much more covert. The direct debit is cancelled online. There is no second donation. Supporters just slink off into the back ground. While the Love Island approach is more brutal, it has the benefit of being clearer. If only charities could make their supporters tell them more clearly why they are severing the ties. Sometimes charities would probably like to answer back.
People are interested in people
In the world of social media, we follow people. Celebrities have numbers of followers which far outstrip companies or government or charities. In today’s world its people that we love or love to hate. That’s why Love Island is so gripping – it’s about people and personalities. When I joined Oxfam’s fundraising dept many years ago, ‘people give to people’, was the seminal wisdom that the great Guy Stringer had left behind. When charities get wrapped up in policy statements, or bland corporate speak, or anodyne appeals to give to a disease or a cause, they need to remember that people give to people. Nobody on Love Island has yet said they are looking for love, or to have fun, with a nice tight equal opportunities statement.
Treating people right is important
‘Wind your f***king neck in’ was the latest lovely insult from a recent episode. The folk on Love Island certainly make the ‘who snogged who’, and ‘what was or wasn’t a kiss on the lips’ into an artform. They also appear able to take offence at the simplest of comments. Even the producers appear to have conspired to deceive Dani Dyer into feeling she had been betrayed. How easy it is for us to look down our noses at such behaviour. We have nothing to be smug about. We are the sector that has sold supporters names and address, sent them endless mailings, believe we had a divine right to knock on doors even when the evidence said otherwise. The list of the ways that we have treated people bad is long in charities. Its so much easier to spot bad behaviour in reality TV. We need to be able to see much more in our own work, and justify it far less.
When the sun shines and the bodies are beautiful – most things are possible. Charities need to work when it’s raining in winter.
Love it or hate it, Love Island works because it combines sunshine, beautiful people and a culture designed to encourage couples to pair up and then have their heads turned. With all these ingredients it’s not surprising that it’s successful because most of our lives are much more mundane. For charities the challenge is to make their work as interesting as Love Island while dealing with issues that engage the worst and most difficult issues that our society has to offer. The real challenge for charities is not making the beautiful interesting, but making the boring everyday challenges of poverty, health, exclusion, disability, etc that many face in their daily lives, interesting.