How charities are campaigning using augmented reality | Reason Digital

How charities are campaigning using augmented reality | Reason Digital

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How charities are campaigning using augmented reality

Websites, blogs, email newsletters and social media have long been standard tools in the campaigner’s toolkit, but there’s a new kid on the block - augmented reality.

Note: this article was updated on 4th April 2012 to add information about an augmented reality campaign by Crisis and Aurasma. Skip to the new content.

Many charities, as a result of cuts to funding, project closures and the loss of key staff, are turning to technology to communicate their messages more efficiently and to larger numbers of potential supporters. Augmented reality is one such technology.

According to WIkipedia, “Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.” At its most basic, it involves a user pointing their phone’s screen at a physical object and additional information is overlaid onto the screen, offering additional interaction with the world around them.

There are increasing numbers of augmented reality campaigns in the business world, including a 3D world you can control with your Adidas shoe and augmented reality greetings cards from Hallmark. There are clear benefits to teaching and learning, especially given the proliferation of mobile devices and how reliant students have become on their phones, and the tourism industry can benefit immensely from digital trails and additional signage and information accessible from mobile devices without cluttering the environment with visual noise.

Examples of charity-related augmented reality apps, however,  are few and far between.


Enter Save the Children, who have just launched an augmented reality campaign to help raise awareness and boost donations for their East African Appeal, using a digital message embedded in the newsletter mailed to their 240,000 supporters.

Recipients of the newsletter who own an iOS or high-powered Android device simply need to download the free Aurasma app and point the camera of their smartphone at the newsletter to watch an engaging video about the charity’s life-saving work, embedded in the page itself. Users then have the option to click-through to Save the Children’s website and make a donation.

Alexandra Bono, Senior Digital Fundraising Executive of Save the Children, said:

“At Save the Children, we are always looking for new ways to engage people with the human stories behind our life-saving appeals.  Aurasma has enabled us to deliver a digital message through our supporter newsletter, Children Now, which goes to 240,000 of our supporters.  Video has the power to connect with people in a very impactful way, and our printed newsletter is a trusted and familiar communication.  This campaign, facilitated by Aurasma, brings together these two channels in a compelling new way which we hope will support donations to our East Africa appeal.”


Martina King, Managing Director of Aurasma, said:

“We are delighted to be working with our first ever partner in the charitable sector – Save the Children – an organisation devoted to saving lives across 120 countries. Aurasma is a fantastic fit for charities looking to get their message across in these difficult economic times as it delivers very high rates of engagement and is available to our partners for free. It is wonderful to know that our technology can help Save the Children raise awareness of the East African Campaign.”


Aurasma’s augmented reality app is also being used as part of an art exhibition of nine of the nation’s leading artists, working together with homelessness charity Crisis.

Works by Anthony Caro, Nathan Coley, Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley, Nika Neelova, Yinka Shonibare MBE, Bob and Roberta Smith, Gillian Wearing and Jonathan Yeo on display respond to themes and issues relating to homelessness – isolation, property, security and space. For the first time those attending the exhibition can point their phones at the paintings on display to view interviews with the artists talking about their work and the exhibition.

For example, embedded in Tracey Emin’s work is a short, video of the artist talking about her inspiration and the exhibition. Similarly, the Jonathan Leo piece reveals an interview with Jonathan and the people who sat for the painting on display. What’s more, users will also be able to click-through to make donations directly from their smart device.

Leslie Morphy, Chief Executive of Crisis, said: It is incredibly exciting for us to have so many world-renowned contemporary artists creating and donating work for the Crisis Commission. At a time when homelessness is rising again, it is fascinating to see how they have responded to the issue. We’re really pleased to have Aurasma bring an entirely new dimension to the exhibition. We hope it can help provide a timely boost to donations and awareness of homelessness issues as we continue to work to transform people’s lives across the UK.

The exhibition also features five works created by homeless or vulnerably housed Crisis artists at Crisis Skylight centres across the country. Information on how to access the additional content using Aurasma will be available to visitors at the exhibition, which runs until 22nd April 2012.

All of the artworks will be sold by auction at Christie’s on 3rd May 2012 with all proceeds going to Crisis.


US-based youth breast cancer charity CoppaFeel!recently launched an augmented reality campaign they describe as “The World’s first augmented reality 3D boob billboards

Using the blippar app for iOS and Android, holding the phone towards the image enabled people to see the boobs in 3D, as well as additional interactivity such as naming them and sharing the picture to Facebook and Twitter to help further promote the campaign. Users could also find out more about ‘how to check your boobs’ and sign-up to the CoppaFeel! text reminder service.


New technology often requires additional skills or technical expertise to make it work, particularly if an organisation has limited resources or tight budgets. Augmented reality is still quite a new technology, so it needs to demonstrate real value and genuine outcomes if it’s to become a popular campaigning or fundraising tool. The “killer app” will need to go beyond what standard web-based content can deliver to achieve an organisation’s aims in new, innovate and effective ways.

Interested in exploring augmented reality? Why not try downloading some of  augmented reality apps such as  AurasmaLayar or Blippar and try them out:

If you’re interested in how you could use augemted reality or other digital technologies to achieve your charity’s objectives, please contact us to find out more.