Rick GarsonElectrifying imagery is sometimes the only thing that’s needed to harden a message or invite charitable giving.

However, without physically being in Myanmar, Haiti, Syria, or other places struck by devastation, it’s sometimes challenging to communicate the severity of need. Filmmakers, activists, and photographers have made it their life’s work to capture truly horrific visuals.

Their work has, and continues to, impact the thinking of those fortunate enough to give. Today, virtual reality and mixed reality has created even stronger connections between would-be donors and needy causes. VR footage and VR glasses shine a light on first-hand visual encounters with poverty, natural disasters, and war.

Immersive storytelling as a means to increase empathy is a necessary, as developing countries battle ravaged lands, impoverishment, and the exploitation of resources. Simulated visits provide an opportunity to educate, train and communicate in a way that wasn’t previously possible.

While we aren’t at the point where we can use holographic recordings of experiences, including smell and touch, to tour encounters, as is described in Pygmalion’s Spectacles by Stanley G Weinbaum, we can have set the stage for audience engagement for philanthropy.

Toms, which is a for-profit shoe company, noted for giving for its good works, gives one pair of shoes to children in over 70 countries across the globe whenever a given pair is purchased through commercial means. Its mission is one that sets it apart from of other shoe company of the same age, marking it as a business with kindness at the center of its agenda. More than giving shoes, Toms also provides sight, water, safe birth and bullying prevention services to people in need.

To broaden their impact, Toms discovered the importance of taking their patrons on a virtual journey, offering them a glimpse into Peru, so that they might see their dollars in action, as it’s given to charitable partners. Videos, just four or five minutes in length provide incredibly impactful interaction with children who’ve received new shoes thanks to the purchasing efforts of Toms customers.

Toms isn’t the only charity utilizing virtual reality and mixed reality to foster charitable giving. Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), Unicef, Cancer Research UK, and The Natural History Museum have all embraced the understanding that virtual reality can offer an undivided experience and garner real dollar for those in need.

In fact, Charity: Water hosted an event in early 2016 that garnered $2.4 million in charitable giving after event goers were treated to visuals through headsets during a fundraising event.

VR videos have become easier than ever to produce.  Videos can be recorded on handheld devices and edited using standard video editing tools, such as iMovie or Adobe Premium.

If you know of any other charitable organizations utilizing mixed reality or virtual reality to encourage charitable giving, please share!