No doubt you’ve seen the no makeup selfie taking over the internet by now. Millions of selfies, varied reactions and some uncomfortable questions raised.
The idea is simple – take a selfie of you wearing no make up, share it on Facebook and Twitter, and nominate friends to do the same by tagging them in your post.
The early posts featured the hashtag #beatcancer, so cancer charities got in on the act and encouraged participants to include text to donate numbers, helping those participating to do something practical to beat cancer. It has raised millions in a staggeringly short period.
In fact, JustGiving have reported:
- 400% increase in direct donations to charities
- 34,000 new members signed up to the site in just 24 hours
- A global impact – Charles Wells, CMO at JustGiving, said “We have donations coming from all over the world, with charities in Australia now benefitting from the campaign, revealing its borderless reach.”
Despite these impressive numbers, the campaign raises some uncomfortable facts.
1.We have no idea what campaigns will work
No charity started the campaign – it came from the actions of a few individual supporters, and charities joined in. If an ‘expert’ had been asked to predict the next big viral charity campaign, there is no way they would have come up with this one. The truth is, we have no idea what will catch on, what will be truly successful.
If the (wo)man on the street keeps coming up with the best campaigns, how can those of us doing it professionally keep up?
2. It’s not all good
A lot of the reaction has not been about the ends (everyone’s down with millions raised to beat cancer), but the means. Not wearing make up is no sacrifice and belittles those putting in real effort, like marathon runners. The campaign is sexist. The participants are egotistical. Nominating others is peer pressure. And more arguments besides.
There are undoubtedly fundraisers up and down the country who would love to raise millions for their cause (and indeed define their career) by starting a campaign like this one. But many of them share these concerns about the way this one is done. So they would be hesitant to be known as the fundraiser who started something like this – it’s too controversial.
3. Lots of people hate it
These very issues mean some people hate the campaign. Sali Hughes wrote in the Guardian about how it has opened the floodgates to “more reductive, sexist, self-congratulatory campaigns for ominous gain”.
For more negative reaction, do a quick Twitter search for “social media charity” on Twitter. You’ll see many, many tweets calling out participants for being vain and selfish, not generous and selfless.
Such a search also reveals a growing distaste for people publicly sharing the fact that they’ve made a donation to a charity. Charity professionals might know that doing so leads to even more donations, and more lives changed as a result. But there are many people who think donating so publicly completely removes the selflessness of the act. So while we will raise more money by encouraging sharing of donations, we will continue to alienate this growing group of people.
4. Everything hinges on an adventurous culture
From a charity point of view, you have to act fast to take advantage of a campaign like this. Such quick thinking requires a culture of experimentation and adventure, where permission to try things out (like quickly lending your name to a campaign like this) is already given from senior management.
Not every charity is lucky enough to have this culture – and if they want to make real strides in how much money they raise and people they reach in future, they need to have it.
5. You have to give up the power
A good point was made on the ECF email group about this. Sites like Change.org let anyone run a petition. They never know which ones will capture the imagination of the public and gather momentum – they just give their supporters the power to go with what matters to them, and they lend organisational expertise where they can. The most successful campaigns are often a surprise.
In order to recreate a campaign like this, charities need to hand over the power and creativity to their supporters, and let them run wild with it. Scary.
I’d also add:
- Create an adventurous culture by sharing the success of this campaign with others in your charity, no matter what your cause is
- Give the power to your supporters – let them run any fundraising or other campaign they want.
- Decide what your priorities are – how much negative reaction are you ok with? If you want to run a big campaign, it will have to be at least some.
How does #nomakeupselfie resonate with you?