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WWF is eyeing up engagement-heavy experiential to cut through the saturated fundraising market

Wildlife charity WWF is bringing UK shoppers up close with tigers this month through an interactive virtual reality experience. This kind of activation could be the beginning of a new era of fundraising, according to senior fundraising campaigns manager Gabriel Hartnell.

“One of the problems we have with WWF is most of our work is a long way away - it's on the other side of the world,” Hartnell told The Drum. “People love animals, but they don't really understand the work on the ground.”

To combat this geographical issue, WWF has taken a big step for a charity – it’s invested heavily in a consumer facing fundraising mechanic. Tapping up live agency Because, which has previously worked on virtual reality experiences for the likes of Boursin cheese, it launched a shopper stand to highlight its tiger conservation work at Westfield in London last week.

The experience comprises a guide through the animals’ shrinking global habitats with a ‘ranger’ – a fully trained-up brand ambassador – and ends with a VR trip through the Nepalese jungle to come face-to-face with tigers. Consumers can then share a photobooth picture with the hashtag #ThumbsUpForTigers, before being encouraged to sign up to adopt one of the predatory cats.

It is currently located in the Stratford branch of Westfield, and there are no solid plans to take it further, however Hartnell is clearly enthusiastic about its potential.

“There are various different areas where this campaign is going to be beneficial to us,” he said. “Long term, we're looking into whether we can use this kind of experience to tell other stories because there's so many different from the field with WWF, from the arctic regions to the rainforest.”

For now, Hartnell hopes to utilise the current stand in other ways too. He explained: “We're hopefully going to go to other shopping centres around the country…possibly taking the whole stand or possibly bits of the stand – it’s modular so we can break it down a bit.”

While the tiger experience may have engagement legs beyond two London-based stints, it’s still a big investment for WWF: charities are frequently held to account if they’re spending too much on marketing, diverting funds away from their initial aims and reason for existence.

Yet for Hartnell, it’s a “logical” decision to invest a little more in something that offers up longer engagement time and stronger touch points than the traditional fundraiser-plus-clipboard street activity.

“We all know that people give to things when they're inspired,” he said. “They give to things when they feel involved and they give things when they feel needed - this experience does that. It puts people in the shoes of the people we have in the field and gets them to understand why their funding and support is necessary.

“I think it can really change the way that we do fundraising. There’s a huge amount of charities [in the UK] and we’re a very giving culture. It’s just about asking: ‘how do you stand out from the pack?’ - and this is where experiential can really help.”

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