Clickbait charity

June 9, 2014 § 7 Comments

I’ve tackled this subject in tweet form before, but I’ve decided it’s time for a little rant. Because yesterday on one of my social feeds I saw – yet again – a charity campaign that went something like this: “Share this link and we’ll donate money to charity every time you do.”

It incenses me, honestly, because it’s nothing but a cheap publicity stunt, served with a soupçon of emotional blackmail. And I’d rather donate my own money to the charity in question than click on your damned link or retweet your picture, or do whatever it is you want me to do to raise your profile publicly.

When I’ve grumbled on social media I’ve been met with, “But surely it’s okay, since good money was raised for charity? Surely the end justifies the means?”

Of course I don’t begrudge those charities their monies. But what if no-one clicked or retweeted or shared? Then you don’t donate to charity? You don’t give as much back to society from your healthy profits, just because we don’t do as we’re told and boost your brand’s footprint? That kind of charity is no charity at all.

Somehow corporate social investment, in various forms, has become a marketing tool. I drove past a school the other day with a huge sign painted on its wall, extolling the virtues of a company that had donated computers. But instead of being impressed with that company, the lavish self-promotion of that sign left me quite nauseated. It just seems as if businesses spend as much effort – and possibly money – publicising the wonderful thing they did, instead of just doing the wonderful thing because they genuinely care about whatever the cause happens to be.

We’re about to see a rash of these initiatives again in South Africa, because Mandela Day is rapidly approaching. Companies will be trying to out-charity each other as publicly as possible by endlessly, shamelessly calling for tweets and retweets and shares and clicks. They cost the sharers nothing, and that’s also problematic for me – isn’t the ultimate in slacktivism sharing something so that someone else will donate some money to charity?

Maybe I’m too idealistic, but I like to imagine a world where we – as individuals and large corporates – give to others for the sake of giving something back to society. For you, that might mean knitting a square or two towards a blanket, or donating your time to teach someone a skill. For a large corporate, that might mean upgrading a school’s resources or facilities, or financing rhino conservation efforts.

Whatever it is, stop freaking bragging about it. And stop using it as a marketing campaign. Because here’s the thing – if what you’re doing is worthwhile, if your ad is worth seeing, if your initiative is worth talking about, people will talk about it. They will share. They will tell their friends and post it on Facebook and retweet it, and tell their friends about the fantastic video they saw on YouTube.

But if you’re orchestrating it, and tagging it onto a charity drive, it just looks cheap. And tacky. So very, very tacky.


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§ 7 Responses to Clickbait charity

  • Tamara says:

    I work with a couple of NGOs. With one of them, a major corporate donor spends probably around R10 on marketing for every R1 they give the NGO. It’s taught the NGO a lot and they’ve now developed far stricter agreements.
    Sad that this has to be managed. Would be preferable if companies did the good work for the sake of the good work and not seemingly for the publicity.


  • Thank you for saying what I have not had the guts to say before. I have given up going to most “networking” groups because they seem to need to have a “pet charity” to justify their existence. It was so refreshing to go one last week where we met, chatted, had fun and shared a bit about our businesses with no raffles, pep talks or pleas for donations. I hate being blackmailed in to coughing up R10 here, there and everywhere for a charity I do not necessarily support. My charitable work is private.

    By the way I feel the same way about golf days, high teas and other “fundraisers”. Why do people need to be bribed to be charitable? I guess it is all about being tax deductible and being seen to be socially responsible. Pay your employees decent wages so that they can take care of themselves.

    Thanks Mandy. Well said.


  • I have seen similar scams here and agree whole-heartedly. Just do good and don’t expect the world to notice. You will be rewarded far more by your sense of accomplishment. Corporate responsibility is just that, not something to turn into a marketing campaign.


  • Jeremy Farrell says:

    Hiya. There are two things you bring to mind.

    The first is that most of the ‘forward it and we will donate’ mails and posts etc are actually time-wasters because nobody is donating anything anyway – someone starts the ‘chain letter’ for fun and to waste peoples’ time and annex Inboxes.

    The second, which is my personal bugbear, is companies that ask you to add R1 or R2 to your bill to support THEIR CSI (mentioning no names but there are some people who like to take-a-lot and give some, and others who like their chicken from Kentucky).

    The generous company then boasts that THEY have raised/given R1M to charity that year – but it cost them nothing – it’s our money!!


    • Yes, indeed. Although I did have a Twitter argument with someone from a big bank who just couldn’t see reason because their “share and we’ll donate” campaign had raised a certain amount of money. Tamara’s comment, though, I find hugely disturbing.


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