Everybody wants to be the next big thing and have the campaign everyone’s talking about. Here are five nonprofit campaigns from around the world that really took off.
Most Ubiquitous: Ice Bucket Challenge, the ALS Association (2014). Watching people on social media pour ice water over their heads became a standard part of just about everyone’s existence last summer. The Ice Bucket Challenge generated more than $115 million and 3 million new donors for the ALS Association, in addition to more than a few laughs and head colds.
Record-Breaking: Kony 2012, Invisible Children (2012). If you saw the video about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, congratulations, you’re not one in a million. It’s more like one in 100 million. Invisible Children’s campaign, launched in March 2012, reached a nine-digit viewership on YouTube in less than a week, making it the fastest video ever to do so.
Boldest: Likes Don’t Save Lives, UNICEF Sweden (2013). A shareable campaign is great, but sharing is not enough. So it’s somewhat ironic that UNICEF Sweden’s 2013 campaign spread so wide. Four videos and ad copy that read “Like us on Facebook, and we will vaccinate zero children against polio” helped get the organization to more than 250,000 Facebook likes. The ad was shared around the world. While those likes might not have saved any lives, the money the campaign generated — enough to vaccinate more than 637,000 children — surely did.
Hashtag Takeover: #NoMakeupSelfie, Cancer Research UK (2014). Some woman don’t want to be seen without makeup — except when it’s for a good cause. Cancer Research UK spotted people using the hashtag #nomakeupselfie on Twitter this past March to raise awareness for cancer research, and crafted a Tweet that included a text donation code. The Tweet was shared 14,000 times and the organization raised £1 million ($1.56 million) in 24 hours and £8 million ($12.5 million) total.
Most Star Power: Do They Know It’s Christmas? 2014, Band Aid (2014). Trading on 30 years of name recognition, U.K.-based charity supergroup Band Aid — which includes U2’s Bono, Chris Martin of Coldplay, and One Direction — raised $1.5 million in minutes with the release of its Ebola-themed remake of the 1984 hit “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” according to published reports. The video has been seen nearly 3 million times on YouTube. – Patrick Sullivan