Two Charity Campaigns that Went Viral

By Julian Steinforth, Expedition PR

According to BBC News people donated $98.2 million to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association from July 29 to August 28 this year – compared with $2.7 million donated during the same period last year. All thanks to its Ice Bucket Challenge. Celebrities, politicians, business executives were among the thousands of people all over the world who took part in this clever social media campaign, including former President George W. Bush, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and performer Justin Timberlake. The campaign faced some criticism.  Not all #ALSIceBucketChallenge participants mention the disease and some celebrities use it more as a PR stunt for themselves. But as a marketer you have to admit that the campaign turned out to be a success and has achieved its overall goal: to raise awareness for ALS. According to BBC News the ALS Wikipedia page had 2,717,754 views from August 1 to August 27 this year, a significant increase compared to the 1,662,842 people who had visited the page during the preceding 12 months. By August 29 the Challenge had gained 4,483,726 Twitter mentions and increased its followers to 22,000, from 8,975 in early July.


Another story of success is the Downton Abbey water gaffe. It started with a promo picture of actors Hugh Bonneville and Laura Carmichael dressed in character for the period drama, but in the background viewers could spot a modern-day plastic water bottle.

water bottle

The photo went viral and caused several laughs among the social media communities. Instead of waiting for the faux-pas to blow over, the show turned the social media conversations about the misplaced water bottle into an opportunity to talk about water safety together with the charity WaterAid UK.

water bottle 2

The show released a photo featuring 17 Downtown Abbey actors and actresses, dressed in casual cloth, making embarrassed faces and holding bottles of water. The post on Twitter contains a link to WaterAid UK, a safe water and sanitation charity.  According to the Sidney Morning Herald  it were the Downton Abbey stars who had suggested the fundraising stunt. On Instagram the picture has currently 19704 likes and 636 comments, but went viral among all social media channels. It was a great idea of the Downton Abbey actors and actresses to give a social conversation a new direction and drive awareness for a good cause.

Both campaigns proved that social media can be a good engagement channel for  non-profit marketers. I hope more non-profit and corporate marketers will follow suit.