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26 Aug 2014

Why Macmillan’s “hijacking” leaves us (ice) cold

Posted on August 26, 2014 by

ice bucket

It’s very rare that a charity’s fundraising efforts are openly criticised, but Macmillan’s “hijacking” of the celebrity-driven Ice bucket challenge has come under attack and I, for one, think the charity is in the wrong on this one.

The ice bucket challenge (or ‘craze’, depending on your viewpoint) originated in the US a few weeks ago. In the main, it’s been used as a way for people to raise money for ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease or, more commonly over here, motor neurone disease (MND).

Yes, some participants are using the challenge to raise money for their own pet charities, but the main beneficiaries are undoubtedly the motor neurone charities.

Around £40m has been raised so far for motor neurone charities in the States, and upwards of £250,000 in the UK.

There’s certainly an argument that the ‘call to action’ element has been lost a little amidst the fun of seeing your friends or favourite celebrities being soaked in ice-cold water (and the MND charities could certainly have done more to link themselves to it) but that’s not the main issue.

The real issue is whether it’s justifiable for Macmillan Cancer Support to attempt to claim ‘ownership’ of the challenge through its own PR and social media.

As I said, the MNDA hasn’t exactly gone overboard to promote its involvement, but its close association with the ice bucket craze isn’t open to question. Macmillan’s most certainly is.

If people want to use the challenge as a way of donating to Macmillan, that’s entirely up to them. But for McMillan to use it as a cheap PR tactic is wrong.

Macmillan does some really good work and helps thousands of people every day, but it’s done itself no favours – or the charity sector as a whole – by trying to take the attention (and the much-needed funding) away from the much smaller motor neurone charities.

According to The Times, the MNDA isn’t impressed. An ‘insider’ from the charity was quoted saying: “We’re both trying to fund cures for diseases, but we’re much smaller. We’d rather a big charity didn’t come swooping in and take our funding away. We don’t have the resources that they do.”

Charities don’t normally criticise each other, so if that’s a genuine quote from the MNDA (and we’ve no reason to think it isn’t) then it shows just how p****d off they are with Macmillan muscling in.

Macmillan’s defence? That no-one really ‘owns’ the campaign, so they have every right to claim it – particularly in social media.

The charity obviously hadn’t bothered to check out the media coverage or conversations on social, many of which refer to motor neurone.

But I doubt the PR and social media backlash it’s had over the past few days will have gone similarly unnoticed.

Macmillan should have been contrite, not belligerent.

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