Virtual Reality in Charity

Anastasia Morozova
Chief Operating Officer

One of the primary goals of any charity campaign is to draw as much attention to the problem as possible and attract the maximum donations.

However cynical it may seem, we are now getting used to the fact that there is always some natural disaster, environmental concern, or humanitarian crisis. Thus, charities are seeking new ways to get their message across.

Today, telling about a problem is not enough. To make people empathize with the problem and want to help it, they need to be shown or, let’s face it, even be shocked to understand the depths of the crisis.

In addition to taking photos or videos of the problem for which donations are sought, charity organizations are now actively exploring the opportunities of virtual reality (VR). By placing the viewers literally “inside” the crisis, the charity organizers can achieve the fullest empathy and the desire to help.

Why is such an effect possible? The main feature of VR is the immersive experience it creates.

In a VR environment, the viewers find themselves in the middle of the story. Virtual reality transports the audience to distant places recreating disastrous situations and focusing their attention on the problem.

However, fundraising is not the only goal that can be achieved through virtual reality.

Let’s look at the possible ways virtual reality can help charity organizations draw attention to problems.

virtual reality in charity

Increasing awareness

To resolve a problem, it needs to be recognized first. The public needs to know that the problem exists and to which degree it has grown so far.

By making people live through an experience, charity organizations raise their awareness of the matter and stimulate donations.

When we think of charities, we first tend to think of third world countries with a lack of fresh water, quality food, or medical assistance. However, sometimes the problem is much closer. Sometimes, it is right next door. We just do not notice it. Well, virtual reality can change that.

The UK National Autistic Society released a VR film intended to draw attention to the problem of autism. The Too Much Information film is available as an application downloadable from the App Store and can be viewed through a simple cardboard device. However, the effect is stunning.

The 2-minute VR video places you within the body of an autistic child to whom all natural lights, colors and sounds are immense sensual stress.

The effect builds up until you literally “pass out” from the sensual overload. By living through this short experience, you get the idea of what autistic people feel every moment of their lives.

Virtual reality can be used to draw attention to more distant problems, too.

The virtual reality technology allows recreating the situation where help is needed, thus building a bond between the viewer and the people that need their support.

The United Nations Organization engaged filmmaker Chris Milk to release a short VR movie, Clouds over Sidra.

The movie shows the life of a Syrian girl in a refugee camp. By looking through the girl’s eyes, you see the everyday life in the camp – how the kids play, go to school, workout in the gym.

You cannot help but notice the drab conditions in which the children are forced to live and hear the main message that the girl repeats through the whole movie: “I want to go home”.

The touching effect of this VR movie is achieved by focusing on a single person but projecting her experience on thousands of people who live the same lives and need help and support.

Anyone can download the app from the App Store and view it through a Google Cardboard device to find themselves in the authentic atmosphere of the refugee camp and feel the sorrow of people torn from their land.

virtual reality charity

Raising funds

This is, of course, the main purpose of any charity campaign, and virtual reality can help it tremendously.

VR movies can bring people closer to the problem, to the very heart of it, giving them the first-hand experience of the hardships that the others face.

Moreover, by inserting the “Donate Now” call-to-action right within the VR content, the charity can encourage immediate contributions, while the emotions are still fresh.

The charity: water organization is raising funds to help provide clean water to people who have no access to it otherwise. Its VR movie called The Source depicted the life of an Ethiopian girl living in a village with no water well.

Every day, she needs to walk for miles to bring water to her family. The water is dirty and dangerous to drink, and the girl often misses school because of this task.

The VR movie shows the joy of the family and the whole village when the well was dug, and they received an unlimited source of fresh water.

Сharity: water played this VR movie at a black-tie event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The audience was so moved by what they saw and felt that the donations exceeded $2.4 million in that event alone.

Reporting funds spending

Not every donor can travel across the globe to see that their donations are spent for the intended cause. Of course, the charity organizations publish reports, make photos and film documentaries about the actions they take. However, seeing your money work with your own eyes has a much stronger effect.

Smile Train, a global charity organization providing free surgeries to children with cleft lip or palate, uses virtual reality to show the drastic improvement of the children’s life quality before and after the surgery.

While watching the movie, The Story of Nisha, you feel the isolation of an Indian girl unable to go to school, the frustration of not being able to eat or speak properly, the despair of being stared at and needing to hide her face.

After the girl is out of surgery, you hear the hope in her voice and the joy of making plans for her future. You are convinced that your money is well-spent.

Learning and education

Sometimes, charity is not about donating money. Sometimes, it is about teaching people to help others in a critical situation.

Few of us know how to help a person suffering a heart attack or a victim of a traffic accident. The confusion and perplexity multiplied by the lack of proper knowledge can even cause more harm to the victim.

While virtual reality cannot do much to calm us in the event of an accident, it can give us knowledge and skills that can save the victim in those precious seconds before the professional help arrives.

The Resuscitation Council UK released its Lifesaver VR application, teaching teenagers to help people with a cardiac arrest. The VR application can be downloaded from an App Store to a smartphone and used with a cardboard viewer.

In addition to teaching young people to make the right choices, Lifesaver VR includes a practical training of administering CPR. The device senses your movements and measures their force and frequency. In the end, your patient either lives or dies depending on how well you acted to resuscitate them.

Such VR training not only gives people practical skills. It also increases their confidence and may prevent them from freezing up in case of an accident.

Support to beneficiaries

In some cases, virtual reality can be targeted not at the donors but at the beneficiaries of charity. By watching a VR movie or taking a virtual tour, people get a better idea of what they can expect.

Hospices are places that people instinctively fear. Anyone preparing for a hospice is usually depressed and low-spirited. In addition to the overall condition of the hospice patient, the unknown experience of the life in hospice makes them even more desperate.

A virtual tour of the hospice may prepare the patient better for their stay there. This strategy was used by the Royal Trinity Hospice in London that launched a virtual tour of its facility.

The aim of this project is to give comfort and assurance to the patients and their families.

The VR tour takes the viewer through the entire grounds of the hospice showing that their stay is going to be as peaceful and comfortable as possible.

However, virtual tours are not the only application of this technology for charity purposes. There is a whole branch of development aimed at creating VR experiences for people with limiting or disabling conditions.

Lifelites, a charity organization focused on using state-of-the-art technologies to make the lives of people with disabilities better and brighter, donates VR applications to children hospices to let them play, create and communicate.

Such VR apps are specially designed to take into account the reduced abilities of the patients. For example, a virtual reality game can be controlled by vision rather than a manual controller, which is a great solution for people with reduced hand mobility.

Saying thanks

As a token of gratitude, charity organizations often say their thanks to donors and participants, thus drawing attention to their cause and encouraging more donations.

Using virtual reality allows bringing the matter closer to both the current and future donors by raising their interest.

Cancer Research UK, an organization financing cancer research and educating people on the cancer-related topics, created a touching VR video, The Life Garden, to thank their donors.

The video shows an endless field of more than 100,000 flowers – one for each person who contributed to the cancer research cause.

By “walking” through this immense field, you realize how many people have supported the research and how important their help is. According to the authors, the field is going to grow as new donations are received.

Thus, anyone who contributes to this cancer research project will receive a flower as a sign of appreciation and gratitude.

charity virtual reality

VR is not only about games or entertainment

We are used to thinking of VR in the context of immersive games, virtual tours or fashion shows.

However, the opportunities it gives are much wider. The main feature of VR is creating a lifelike experience, and it can serve charity purposes, too.

Virtual reality is a powerful tool for getting the message across stimulating multiple senses.

Virtual reality experiences can bring more people to support a charity campaign, thus helping to resolve the problem or the crisis sooner. With more people paying attention to the problems of our Earth, there is hope that we may solve them all one day.

We welcome charity organizations to discuss their projects and build VR-based solutions that can raise public awareness. On our part, we guarantee the superb quality of the VR product.

We will be honored to be a part of your charity campaign.

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