NEWS

Selfies raise money, awareness for charities

06/03/2015 05:00 EDT | Updated 06/02/2016 05:59 EDT
Selfies fill up many social media feeds. But more and more often, those quick pictures are also being used to raise money for charity. 

When Bill Gates took a selfie last summer, his image was viewed over 20 million times.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was a huge success, and right from the start, celebrity involvement drove huge buzz on social media. In the end, the campaign raised about a quarter of a billion dollars globally.

Here's a successful British selfie campaign from a year ago.

This campaign illustrates how the combination of Millennials, selfies and social media seems to naturally evolve toward fundraising. Initially, there was no charity involved. Women just started daring each other to post selfies without makeup in an odd kind of anti-narcissistic narcissism.

Eventually, the Millennial urge to do good kicked in, and participants started donating. The charity that emerged was Cancer Research U.K., which ended up receiving over £8 million.

Now, here's an example of a campaign launched in the pre-selfie, pre-social-media age of 2003, which exploded when selfies and social media were added to the mix.

Dares, celebrity participation and narcissism were again huge factors in Movember raising over half a billion dollars for men's health.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International in Canada discovered that selfies could play yet another important role in fundraising. During face-to-face canvassing, if the donor agreed to taking a selfie with the canvasser, that donor was 10 per cent more likely to still be supporting Amnesty a year later.

Even when there's a risk of creating a less than flattering impression of themselves—well beyond simply going without makeup—some people are still willing to post selfies.

Earlier this year, a charity called Mind encouraged people to post mental health selfies to let people with similar challenges know they're not alone.

Without a doubt, selfie campaigns raise a huge amount of money. But some fundraising professionals are concerned by the number of people who post selfies without making a donation, thinking that participation alone is enough.

Here's how last year's Lemon Face Challenge addressed that issue.

A German hunger charity encouraged people to take selfies of themselves eating a whole lemon, and specified that participants should make a €5 donation, rather then simply letting them decide the amount and whether or not to give at all.

While selfies and social media seem to be tailor-made for fundraising, there's still one final concern with such campaigns. Unlike Bill Gates—who made a point of raising awareness of the charity—many selfie campaign participants don't mention the charity at all, and simply raise awareness of themselves.

Bruce Chambers is a syndicated advertising columnist for CBC Radio. 

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