Maximising value: The business case for investing in VR
VR, well used is a powerful tool for fundraisers and many charities have reaped the rewards, some of them unexpected. But producing VR content, either 360 degree video or interactive CGI, requires significant investment, so how can one be sure there will be a return on the initial outlay?
Amnesty International has intentions to extend its innovative virtual reality street fundraising campaign after positive feedback from a pilot which used 360 degree imagery to place people in the chaotic barrel bombed locations of Syria. That project was so effective at making viewers empathise with Syrian refugees that it received the backing of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and has proven effective at helping raise awareness, and money—for humanitarian efforts.
UNICEF was an early adopter in VR powered campaigning with its well-publicised adoption of VR film Clouds Over Sidra and has expanded its use of the medium for fundraising. After the film helped them significantly increase funds at donor conferences, they have been pilot testing Clouds Over Sidra with its face-to-face fundraisers on the streets of 40 different countries to measure the effectiveness of virtual reality as a fundraising tool. To date, 1 in 6 people viewing the experience have made donations to UNICEF as a result of watching the film, twice the normal rate of giving.
What are some of the considerations charities should have in mind when embarking on the journey of integrating immersive technologies into their strategies and what can be learned from others who have taken the road ahead of them?
Many organisations have benefitted from having a committed technical partner as advice on headsets, VR applications, future proofing and troubleshooting are all an investment that needs to be considered. The good news is that the cost of equipment and post-production is falling with advances in technology and the power of processing in the ‘cloud’. In terms of the longevity and future proofing of what is shot with 360 degree cameras, there are some that can shoot 16k now so an organisation can shoot in higher quality and then re-render the film at a later stage ensuring it is compatible with future headsets.
Since the initial investment cost could be significant when making films of remote locations, it’s probably a good idea to get funding from as many sources as you can including partnerships with celebrities and initiatives, was a learning shared by one of our partners, Vincent Vernet from Rotary International: “We are trying to get around some of the financial barriers through partnerships. We are partnering with UNICEF and we really got a strong return on that project. Working with Google we are developing a suite of options that over time will really pay for themselves.”
Other funding initiatives are worth investigating. Virtual reality company Oculus has a VR for Good programme, which recently gave 10 charities or non-profits the opportunity “to tell their stories through VR” with workshops and equipment such as the Nokia OZO 360 degree camera.
It is also wise to adopt integrated campaign planning with costs shared between the face-to-face fundraising team, communications team, education team and the major gifts team. International campaigns may also ensure larger budgets and a bigger pool of resources and talent to draw upon.
Organisations with more experimental approaches have often found their work has provided concrete ROI despite not having had those aims specifically in mind. The financing for the Clinton Global Initiative’s “Inside Impact: East Africa” which received 1.15 million views, 20 thousand likes and 1600+ comments came not from the Clinton Foundation, but rather Matter Unlimited’s “Inside Impact” social impact project. The film’s intention was not to raise money but to raise awareness. By embracing this new technology, without justifying budget and KPIs (which would have likely led to it have not being produced in the first place) it had the effect of raising twice what was projected when shown at a fundraising conference in Kuwait, bringing in $3.8billion.
While the business case for virtual reality when it comes to raising funds has already been proven, each organisation still needs to find the best way to engage the technology to tell its own unique stories and reach the right audiences.
Adrian Leu, CEO of INITION