It was the fundraising phenomenon that has caught the charity world by storm, the #nomakeupselfie. Check out Ian Griggs’ article about the phenomenon and an excellent Guardian Voluntary Sector Network piece on why it worked.
Both of these informative articles recognise that #nomakeupselfie was not born in the depths of a charity fundraising or marketing & communications team. Cancer Research UK may have made £8m, but they did so because of the efforts of volunteers who took it upon themselves to make this phenomenon what it is.
Yes, that’s right – point number one is that #nomakeupselfie would not have happened without volunteers. They may not have seen themselves as volunteers but everyone who posted their picture did so of their own free will, for the benefit of others and without expectation of financial gain. Not one paid fundraiser was involved. Everyone who made this happen was a volunteer.
That’s one in the eye for anyone who thinks volunteers can’t make a difference. I hope it’s also a lesson for those in the sector who argue that anything worthwhile can only be done by paid staff. Take away the #nomakeupselfie volunteers and CRUK would be £8m poorer.
So, #nomakeupselfie was a volunteer phenomenon. Brilliant. But it’s had the impact it’s had because those volunteers also gave money. Yes, the giving of time and money was inherently linked (point number two). Maybe not everyone who posted a picture made a donation, but my guess is everyone who made a donation posted a picture.
Can we please learn from this and stop talking about giving time separately from giving money? Volunteers are usually the most generous donors but we rarely ask them to give, either because fundraising departments look down their noses at volunteering teams or because volunteer managers won’t let fundraisers anywhere near ‘their’ volunteers.
Finally, remember that I said that the people who took part in #nomakeupselfie may not have seen themselves as volunteers. My guess is that few volunteer managers saw them as volunteers either. Nobody filled in an application form, nobody had a DBS check, or an interview, or had references taken up, or went on training & induction courses.
People took part because it was easy, fun, didn’t require a huge time commitment and it made them feel good.
Point number three is this: we need to change people’s perceptions of volunteering by making their first experience of giving time as easy, fun, non-committal and as rewarding as #nomakeupselfie was. We can do that online. We can do that offline. But we must do that. Then we can get alongside them and see if they want to get involved in other ways too, developing and deepening their involvement as appropriate, whether as volunteer or donor nor both.
There is lots to learn from #nomakeupselfie, but it isn’t all about social media.