'No make up selfie' raises £8m for Cancer Research in a week

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Cancer Research UK received more than £8m in donations after a popular online campaign, asking women to post selfies with no make-up using the hashtag #nomakeupselfie, went viral in March 2014. This case study looks at how the charity (and a few polar bears) benefits massively from a campaign started by an 18-year-old Facebook user.

The ‘no make-up selfie’ trend has helped charity Cancer Research UK raise more than £2 million in text donations.

The campaign, which began on social media on Tuesday afternoon, asks women to post photos of themselves online without make-up, with the hashtag #nomakeupselfie.

Despite its success, the hashtag phenomenon was not an official campaign from Cancer Research. Fiona Cunningham, 18, created the Facebook page behind the no-makeup selfie phenomenon. Cunningham was inspired to create the original Facebook Selfie page – which has reached over 250,000 likes since its creator last week – after seeing actress Kim Novak attend this month’s Oscars ceremony with not a scrap of make-up on.

Women showed their support to Kim after she was criticised in the press by posting their own bare-faced selfies and, seeing an opportunity to do some good in the world, Fiona followed Novak’s brave lead.

Katherine Jenkins, Helen Flanagan, Tulisa Contostavlos, Millie Mackintosh, Kerry Katona, Kym Marsh and Michelle Heaton are just a few of the female celebs going without make up for a good cause.


The charity also saw a rise in people donating at their Cancer Research UK shops, and a huge peak in visits to its website.

The selfie campaign has also sparked a Facebook page No Make Up Selfie For Cancer Awareness which had more than 219,000 'likes' at the time of writing.

Watch these videos from the BBC discussing the campaign:

Polar bear blunder

The camapign wasn't without hitches however, as a texting blunder led to thousands of pounds being donated to both Unicef and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

Nearly £20,000 was sent to children’s charity Unicef by accident when they texted ‘DONATE’ rather than ‘BEAT’. Others inadvertently expressed an interest in adopting a polar bear from WWF when they texted ‘BEAT’ but their phones auto-corrected this to ‘BEAR’.

Concerns were raised when those involved received a text reply reading: ‘Thank you for choosing an adorable polar bear. We will call you today to set up your adoption.’

Unicef told the BBC £18,625 had been donated to them incorrectly, but every penny intended for Cancer Research UK will find its way safely back as Unicef is now working with the cancer charity to replace the money.

Director of individual giving at Unicef UK, Mike Flynn, said: ‘Unicef believes this error has occurred due to those interested in donating to the #nomakeupselfie campaign sharing the text keyword ‘DONATE’ – rather than the keyword ‘BEAT’ – and the text number 70099, which has then been repeated across social media.

‘DONATE to 70099′ is an SMS keyword and shortcode combination that Unicef have sole use of, specifically for any members of the public who contact us and wish to donate to us via SMS.

‘Unicef is not responsible for this error however we’ve been working hard to find a resolution to the situation for those affected.

‘We are now working closely with all parties involved to ensure that this doesn’t happen again in the future.’

‘Any texts sent to us instead of Cancer Research [UK] would not result in any donations going to help protect polar bears as WWF relies on human operators calling people back to confirm adoptions, so no money would have changed hands,’ said Kerry Blackstock, WWF’s director of fundraising.

‘We wish Cancer Research UK every success in their campaign and their goals, polar bear selfies are harder to come by, though, as far as we are aware, none wear make-up.’

The charity also saw a rise in people donating at their Cancer Research UK shops, and a huge peak in visits to its website.

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