A laugh is worth a thousand words.

There are many aspects to gaining legitimacy online that seem to vary from the way things worked before the web. With all of the peer-to-peer communication, with all the access to information, legitimacy is more closely tied to perceptions of realism, originality, and straight shooting then ever before. Now clearly, I’m not the first to think on this subject. Authors have been pontificating on the ways that the web is changing society in everything from The Cluetrain Manifesto to Here Comes Everybody. But one thing that people seem to be able to agree on is that the web has created a knowledgeable and discerning audience en masse.

Last week, we kicked off a discussion about what does and does not work when it comes to getting people involved with philanthropy online, and today I want to offer one potential solution: Humor. If you your website, blog or even presentation can make people laugh, while still accomplishing the original philanthropic goal, you’re a step ahead of the game from the beginning. You’ve already established a connection with the reader (and through that, a legitimacy) that even my younger attention deficit disorder generation can relate to. There is something about laughing at something together that creates feelings of recognition. And finally, humor is a way to attract the population of people turned off by the traditional pleas to conscious or civic duty that many groups relay on to coax giving, simply because it’s a new and interesting way to get information.

Of course, being legitimately funny without clearly trying to hard can be tricky. I usually fall off one side or the other, either being too preachy and thus not funny, or being too funny and thus missing any point. It’s also not something that dovetails nicely with everything (take the GIF group, for example). But when I receive an email that makes me chuckle, you can bet that I won’t simply file it away with all of the others that pluck on my more serious emotional heartstrings.

Do you find yourself turned off by the snarky humor some websites use? Are their times when jokes just aren’t appropriate? Or do you err, like me, along the line of thought that you always relate more to the things that inspire emotion... regardless of its source?

Alan Smith

Posted at 1:00 AM, Aug 14, 2008 in Blogs | Philanthropic Strategy | Youth | Permalink | Comment