UNIQLO and UNICEF are both testing the waters of online charity challenges with new campaigns. UNIQLO launched its Selfless Selfie Project, which calls for people to post picture of themselves doing positive things in their communities to their favorite social media. UNICEF launched the #WakeUpCall campaign, which asks people to post pics of themselves first thing in the morning in order to raise money for Syria.
These campaigns seek to replicate the grass-roots success of spontaneous campaigns.
the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which helped raise $100 million for the ALS Foundation, made copycat campaigns inevitable. Even before the Ice Bucket Challenge surfaced, the No Make-Up Selfie for Cancer Awareness Campaign raised over $3 million for cancer research in the U.K. The latest selfie campaigns make it clear we’re dealing with a trend, and it’s not limited to the world of nonprofits.
The campaigns have proven divisive. While many argue that the ends justify the means, there are other who feel they do more harm than good. Both sides of the argument have attracted passionate advocates.
Slate.com’s Will Oremus criticized such campaigns because he feels they make the actual charity a "postscript." In response to the ice bucket challenge, Oremus called for a counter "no Ice Bucket Challenge" campaign. His feeling is that people shouldn’t need to post gratuitous selfies in order to donate money to important causes.
Time.com called the Ice Bucket Challenge "problematic in almost every way," arguing that it made many people feel dumping a bucket of icewater over their head was a suitable replacement for actually donating money or otherwise getting involved with ALS fundraising.
Meanwhile, other observers suggest that the sometimes silly activities associated with viral campaigns are uniquely effective.
The BBC argues that "charity narcissism" is good because it harnesses people's desire for attention and uses it to make the world a better place. Forbes argues that anybody who calls the Ice Bucket Challenge stupid is wrong simply because it raised "enough money to matter."
The Selfless Selfie Project and the #WakeUpCall campaign make it clear that for-profits and nonprofits are embracing these platforms. For-profits get the benefit of "doing the right thing" while building a brand, and nonprofits can reach unprecedented audiences. Until these campaigns stop going viral, that’s too tempting to ignore.