What's a viral cause worth?

The #nomakeupselfie trend netted millions.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is enjoying significant social media success and raking in donations for ALS research, but it's hardly the first viral challenge for a cause.

Do these stunts actually raise any money, or are they hollow slacktivism? Here's a look at a few social media campaigns for good and how they worked out financially:

#nomakeupselfie: $8 million

Not unlike the Ice Bucket challenge, this fundraiser leveraged an unrelated, but highly clickable hook into some real money. Cancer Research UK didn't start the #nomakeupselfie trend — that was author Laura Lippman, for reasons unrelated to cancer — but the craze evolved into an awareness campaign and the organization rode the wave to about $8 million in donations.

Sarah Palin and Planned Parenthood: $800,000

In an age of hashtags and viral videos, a political email chain still has some power. During the 2008 presidential election, an email circulated encouraging donations to Planned Parenthood in the name of anti-abortion vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin. The Internet loves irony, so contributions poured in.

Kony 2012: $32 million

Kony 2012 made more money than the others on this list, but it's tough to call it a success. Invisible Children's viral video and awareness campaign spread blindingly fast, gathering up tens of millions of views almost overnight.

The backlash was immediate and came from all sides. Critics went after the video's accuracy, the group's finances and the campaign's motivations. Kony 2012's director had an ugly public meltdown and the effort's big "Cover the Light" event flopped. A recent profile found Invisible Children still struggling and looking for a new direction.

#OnlyGoodThings: $?

This effort is impossible to quantify, but it's notable because it was created in reaction to another viral stunt. "NekNominate" challenges involve filming oneself chugging a drink and then challenging others to do the same.

One YouTuber flipped the script on his own nomination, encouraging others to perform good deeds instead, like giving away sandwich while inspirational music plays. The trend got some traction, but failed to catch on the way #NekNominate did.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...