Nonprofit asks: What would you do if a homeless man came to your door?

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Interactive campaign encourages donations with thought-provoking site

If a dirt-covered, raggedly dressed man rang your doorbell and asked you help him get back on his feet, would you let him into your home?

That’s the big question asked by, a new charity website created by McKinney for the Urban Ministries of Durham (UMD) of North Carolina. When clicking "Yes" to any of the prompts on the website — would you let him stay for just the night, take a shower, or give him a ride — the site thanks visitors for helping a neighbor in need, and then asks for a donation, either as money, or a gift from the organization’s Wish List

The provocative approach aims to raise awareness for the community shelter while humanizing an often-feared member of the homeless population. "We’re in a place right now that we’ll help a woman, we’ll help a child, but we won’t help a man because we’re afraid they might be a murderer or terrorist, and that understanding is what drove us to do this," said Jenny Nicholson, group creative director at the Durham, N.C.-based agency, and creator of the website. It challenges people "to face the reality of their feelings, and what they’re willing and not willing to do for other people," she added.

The Amazon wish list was included as a donation option for people who may be hesitant to donate money, Nicholson said. Instead they can give food, clothes and blankets by making purchases on the community organization’s Amazon page. "It’s a great option for people who aren’t comfortable giving money. They can give a tangible item," Nicholson said. 

UMD will promote the site with paid sponsored posts on the organization’s Facebook page and also plans to release a 15-second trailer before movie screenings at local theaters.  

"YourDoorbellRings" is the third campaign McKinney has created for UMD since the agency began working with the nonprofit organization in 2010. The first was the site SPENT, launched in 2011, which engaged not only the local community, but went viral and drew donations from around the world.

SPENT asked visitors to experience virtually what it was like to be poor with a game-like site that presented a scenario where they work a low-income job and have to cope with paying for bills, rent, food, their children’s needs, and more, with a month’s salary of about $1,000 after taxes. The effort was created to raise awareness about people living below the poverty line after the recession in 2008, Nicholson said. 

The campaign, which extended the interactive game-like experience to mobile last year, raised more than $70,000 for UMD and has been played more than 4.5 million times in more than 200 countries, said the agency.

Another site created for the organization in 2013, Names for Change, allows donors to buy naming rights to any items and parts of UMD’s community center, from clothes and beds, to food and even doors. Donors receive a commemorative poster to celebrate their good deed. "Names for Change" has generated more than $72,000 for the organization.  

The launch for "YourDoorbellRings" was timed to the holiday season, a time when people readily welcome family and friends into their homes, and when the weather turns cold. "A lot of people are coming to your door this time of year, that you’re welcoming with open arms ... how would you react if it was a stranger?" Nicholson asked.


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