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Go Ahead And Laugh. It Might Do Some Good.

October 6, 2014   |   Bruce Trachtenberg

Did you hear the one about the Ice Bucket Challenge?

You know that time when people had a few laughs while bringing attention to the need to pour more money into research designed to find a cure for ALS?

As that experience showed, sometimes it’s ok to use humor to get people to think about tough topics—the day-to-day stuff that social change communicators grapple with all the time.

According to Kate Emanuel, senior vice president of Non-Profit and Government Affairs for the Ad Council, “Increasingly, causes and nonprofits are breaking through the tried-and-true fray to deliver serious messages, even matters of life and death, with humor.” In other words, to be seen and heard, you don’t always have to aim for the heart. The funny bone sometimes makes a good target.

Says Emanuel, “When you get down to it, really no topic has to be off limits–you can make any topic funny. So, instead of asking, ‘Can it be funny?’ perhaps a nonprofit or cause should ask instead, ‘What’s the best way to use humor to address serious subjects?’” Her advice: always start with a very smart creative brief—you need to understand your target, their motivations, the tone and message. Adds Emanuel, “Don’t just wing it and be funny for funny’s sake.”

The best way to show how humor can be put to good use is let these examples speak for themselves.

Sit back, enjoy and maybe have a few laughs…on us.

Bruce Trachtenberg
Bruce Trachtenberg is executive producer and editor for The Atlantic Philanthropies. He previously served as executive editor for frank and before that as executive director of the Communications Network.