Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Ice-bucket hijack

I realised quite recently that I don’t have to keep my head below the parapet any more. I have popped up from time to time but, having run a charity for a number of years, was always quite guarded about what I said – after all I was representing the charity, even in my private space. I was certainly very careful about criticising another charity.

I see from an article in Marketing Week Macmillan defends itself against criticism it hijacked the ice-bucket challenge that Macmillan has not only jumped on the bandwagon of this fundraising craze but have taken the bandwagon away. They are not the only ones – people like crazes and either don’t care about which charity they are raising money for or want to use it for their own charity. This is different from a large charity throwing resources at something started by a small charity.

Often the resources that the large charity spends on fundraising are many multiples of the total income of the smaller charity.  Some examples – Macmillan spends approximately £50 million a year to generate about £150 million in voluntary income; Cancer Research UK spends about £80 million to generate £373 million and Marie Curie spends £37 million to raise about £85 million (all these exclude trading – usually shops, investment, legacies etc). In comparison the voluntary income of the ALS Association in the USA is about $16 million and of the Motor Neurone Disease Association here is about £13 million.

Money is also spent on “raising awareness” and other such terms which also translate into donations.

There is no immediate solution: charities are advised to put their feet on the accelerators and hope that they can milk the idea before the biggies latch on.  With social media this is increasingly difficult. Breast Cancer Campaign’s “wear it pink” fundraiser gained momentum very quickly and “pink” days started sprouting up everywhere – trade mark or no trade mark. I am sure that Macmillan fiercely protects their coffee morning campaign – unfortunately for ALS (Motor Neurone) the Ice-bucket Challenge can’t be protected and celebrity involvement projected it into the social media stratosphere.

In the breast cancer research community we did ponder about how women could copy the Prostate Cancer worldwide “Movember” campaign.  Grow a beard in November and get sponsorship. Nah – we couldn’t come up with anything either!

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