Cancer Research UK has raised more than £2m this week as a result of the #nomakeupselfie campaign. But what is most surprising is that the activity was not an official, planned event, but something created and carried out purely by its supporters.
No doubt, marketers in charities across the UK will be analysing the campaign to learn important lessons about harnessing social media for fundraising.
Charities have traditionally struggled with converting social media support into hard cash. Yet, the #nomakeupselfie viral has overcome this hurdle with ease.
Much of the success has come from supporters urging each other to donate and the ease with which participants have been able to text their donation. Something Cancer Research UK has promoted via its own social media channels.
Ultimately, the success of this campaign is down to the way Cancer Research UK publicly acknowledged that the campaign grew organically and thanked its supporters. On its Facebook page, it posted:
"You’re all incredible! You’ve now raised over £2 million with your #nomakeupselfie pics – and we’re still counting! Hundreds of thousands of you have been texting BEAT to 70099 which will help beat cancer sooner. Thank you! All your amazing support means we can now fund research that will help save lives. If you want to get involved with our work, visit: http://bit.ly/1h0FIvC
You'll be charged £3 plus one message at your standard network rate. We'll receive at least £2.95 depending on your operator. Full T&Cs can be found here:www.cruk.org/text"
It is shame this message has not been replicated on its website.
Many charities attempt to be cautious and controlling in how their supporters advocate their cause and raise funds, Indeed, this campaign has drawn some criticism about narcissism. However, overall Cancer Research UK has benefitted, particularly financially, from embracing an initiative that has come directly from the heart of its support base. I suspect the charity will see not just a short-term increase in donations, but also a longer term increase in affinity to its cause.
It will be interesting to see how Cancer Research UK harnesses the burgeoning public affection for its brand as it enters its annual Race for Life season.
I think the lesson to be learnt from the #nomakeupselfie viral is that sometimes charities can relax and allow the supporters to take the initiative. Obviously, there are risks involved in allowing supporters to lead the charge, such as mixed messaging and clashes with other campaigns. But, if charities can be brave enough to give their supporters the tools, guidance and freedom to launch their own campaigns, sometimes, it just might pay off.