Advocacy Gameshow Is Now Documentary, But Will People Still Think Of Fundraising As A Competition?

You may have seen last week that CBS quickly shifted directions when their planned show to pit activists against each other in a game show like competition drew extremely negative responses from the general public.  Now the intent is to create a documentary around the work the six contestants do.

According to reporting by Salon, part of what would determine the winner was the social media responses each contestant engendered among viewers:

A press release written up by Deadline includes the details:

Activists go head-to-head in challenges to promote their causes, with their success measured via online engagement, social metrics and hosts’ input. The three teams have one ultimate goal: to create impactful movements that amplify their message, drive action, and advance them to the G20 Summit in Rome, Italy. There, they will meet with world leaders in the hope of securing funding and awareness for their causes. The team that receives the largest commitment is celebrated as the overall winner at the finale, which will also feature musical performances by some of the world’s most passionate artists.

There is so much about this process and how much the creators of the show actually know, or think they know about how non-profit fundraising works. Not to mention what sort of impression people will get about what organizations should be doing in order to garner support from them. The articles I linked about each have examples of things people tweeted in response to the planned show, comparing it to the Hunger Games. Others mentioned that in many places, activists are jailed or tortured in response to their advocacy.

According to Salon:

…more than 70 progressive groups and activists signed an open letter to CBS and Global Citizen critiqueing the premise.

“Pitting activists against one another upholds the ‘oppression Olympics’ and perpetuates the belief that justice issues must fight over ‘breadcrumbs’ supplied by those with power, resources and large platforms,” the letter states. “Ultimately, this results from the very oppressive systems which we are trying to dismantle. Our lived realities, struggles and traumas are not games, nor competitions for the consumerist gaze.”

If you are thinking you may have read about something similar not long ago, I did indeed cover a similar, though untelevised, funding opportunity the Morgan Stanley announced in May which similarly has applicants working with experts to hone their pitches to funders.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

I am currently the Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


Leave a Comment