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Poverty charity tests offensive approach to promote giving

A Fuck the Poor campaigner is spoken to by a Metropolitan police officer.
A police officer speaks to a Fuck the Poor campaigner.

Poverty charity The Pilion Trust has published a video of its ‘social experiment’ that is designed to show that people care about poverty but don’t always back that up with charitable giving.

Filmed secretly on the streets of London with help from agency Publicis, the video shows a man wearing a sign saying in large lettering ‘Fuck the poor’. He is handing out leaflets with the same message. Not surprisingly, many people took him to task for his offensive message, with some challenging him for his attitude to people affected by poverty.

Fuck the Poor campaigner with large sandwich board and hi-viz jacket on the streets of London
Fuck the Poor campaign by the Pilion Trust in central London

The man then flipped his sign over to read ‘Help the poor’, and he held out a collecting tin, inviting people to donate.


How to move from Fundraiser to CEO - by Bruce Tait. Upwards white arrow on blue background.

The charity reports that “this time people completely ignored him”.

Passers-by confront the 'campaigner'
Passers-by confront the ‘campaigner’

The point of the campaign was that plenty of people care enough about poverty, enough to challenge someone on the streets. Yet, far fewer people were prepared to make a donation to help alleviate poverty. The campaign message is therefore: “We know you care. Please care enough to give.”

The film was published on YouTube yesterday and has already been viewed more than 227,000 times. It will be released in cinemas later this month.

Fuck the Poor or Help the Poor? Which sign prompted responses?

Savvas Panas, the Chief Executive of The Pilion Trust, said:

“As a charity, we have been severely affected by the nationwide decrease in charitable donations (20%) and Government cuts (60%).

“We understand that some may be shocked by this footage. We are more offended however, that people across the United Kingdom are living in adverse poverty.”

Says Publicis ECD Andy Bird explained:

“The Pilion Trust is a small front line charity without the budget to make itself heard in paid-for media, and also loses out on High Street donations, so we helped them to make a film that highlighted the discrepancy between peoples’ attitude when confronted with injustice and bigotry about poverty, and then their apathy when asked directly to help do something about it – donate.”

Do shock tactics like this work anymore? Are they ever justified? Are there more effective methods to raise funds and generate publicity for small charities? Share your thoughts in the comments below.