The Picture Isn't Real, The Reality Is

This is furniture poverty

Avoiding "Poverty Porn"

Many charities lean on “hard-hitting” photos used to shock donors into giving. For more than 40 years, charities have relied on “poverty porn” to increase awareness, advocacy and fundraising efforts. But these images exploit, objectify and dehumanize people who are at their most vulnerable, all to generate a compelling photo for a fundraising campaign.

In this increasingly visual world, Furniture Bank must leverage photography to generate donation, but how, ethically, can we take photographs of people’s lowest moments? How can we ask those coming out of crisis and experiencing furniture poverty to pose for photos of their children sleeping on piles of clothes on the floor, or families eating dinner on a bare floor, or mothers on mildewed mattresses comforting their children? 

We can’t, and we won’t.

And yet, we need to show supporters (like you!) what this crisis looks like behind closed doors. For years we’ve been reliant on families who offered photos of their reality, and their written accounts of exiting this form of poverty. We looked to our history of innovating with new technologies for an answer…

Enter Artificial Intelligence

The picture isn't real, but the reality is

For 2022’s annual campaign, we are leveraging the newest technology in innovative and successful ways—AI photography.

Instead of trying to capture the realities of furniture poverty through a traditional camera, we are disrupting the fundraising campaign model by engaging with Artificial Intelligence (AI) to create these images. 

Though AI-generated art is spawning fierce debate in art circles, and leading to questioning the validity of AI-generated art, for Furniture Bank, it’s allowing us to communicate the dire situations our clients are living in with our donors ethically, and responsibly.

By using AI tools like MidJourney, Dall-E and Stable Diffusion , we are able to use stories from from our clients that describe the reality of furniture poverty—sleeping on stained mattresses, children doing their homework on the floor in an empty living room, a kitchen that has nothing but a sink and some cupboards—to generate images that capture the desolation and isolation without requiring our clients to compromise their dignity.

The picture itself isn’t real, but the reality is.

See below why and how we did it !

AI basic imagine prompt
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Your postcard has a story

You are the hero in it

For our 2022 annual campaign, we’ve applied AI technology and generated 40 different realities of what housing looks like without the furnishings and home goods. We’ve printed them onto postcards and have mailed them to donors like you to share our thanks for what your furniture donations have done in your community.

At a minimum, we want Canadians to know that furniture poverty can be eradicated by ensuring reuseable furnishings and home goods are donated to local reuse charities like Furniture Bank to support tens of thousands of families across Canada annually.

At most, we hope to engage donors to financially support Furniture Bank’s work in working towards ending furniture poverty across Canada.

Our goals for this year include offsetting rising costs, and capacity building to produce better quality homing solutions for families:

  1. Raise funds for more bed frame supplies and bedding kits
  2. Sponsor our Indigenous-led Workshop program costs
  3. Offset the 60% increase in rent costs for our Showroom and Workshop
  4. Fund another impact team trucking team that will support 7,500 individuals annually

Will you create more impact?

Help us end furniture poverty in Canada

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This is housing

This is furniture poverty

This is home

Furniture makes all the difference

Furnished Home by furniture donation
Sample of AI Art used to show how to avoid poverty porn while showing the pain caused by furniture poverty.

Check out the 40 images we created using AI that imagine the reality behind closed doors.

Case Studies

How we continue our digital transformation by applying AI tools for a bigger impact on our Annual Campaign.