By Mitchell Aghatise||
I am African.
The other day, I got into a heated argument with a friend- the contentious issue was that, when I am in the UK, I am constantly inundated with adverts about ‘helping children in Africa’ whereas when I am at home in Lagos, I never see such adverts. It troubled me- my view was that are our charities so helpless to raise funds to combat our myriad problems at home or are we as a continent so helpless that all our funding must come from abroad? As conversations tend to develop, we moved on to the nature of these adverts and the effectiveness therefrom. I endeavour to give to charity when I can, indeed this is noble- but; I admit that when I see adverts of a child in Africa with flies perching around and water so dirty that it cannot stake claim to even be defined as water; rather than stir pity within me, I am pushed further away. My human nature quickly changes the channel. I want to see no more and quickly find solace in a football match showing on another channel.
You see, my theory on the matter is that such an approach to fundraising by charities is counter-productive in that, the viewer sees such struggles as otherworldly, somewhere else and often times, of no concern to us. But all is not bleak, as a new trend is arising in funding charities that seems to be more effective, not because it’s a new trend, but for two reasons I observe to be; the participation by those donating and the intimacy in that an organisation is not compelling you to donate but your friends. Such a marketing move which takes advantage of personal relationships is a measure which if employed by Nigerian charities will be sure to be a win-win situation.
So what then is it? I must admit that before the Ice bucket challenge started, I had no clue what Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) was. The disease is a debilitating condition affecting the brain and the spinal cord; Motor neurons therein degenerate and die which make it increasingly difficult to move muscles! This is an unfortunate eventuality for anyone but when explained in just those flippant terms, it is hard for anyone who has had no personal experiences with the disease to actually understand it. However, with the participative drive with the Ice Bucket Challenge, many people will want to know and even donate not necessarily because they are compelled by the sufferings of those going through but that they want to be involved in the latest craze. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as the consequential result is that, in participating in the challenge, they inadvertently learn about the disease and are more likely to donate and help.
Taking this marketing model further, there is the view that success has many friends; a mantra that has been taken advantage of by advertising companies. This is why Usain Bolt will be seen on any ‘Virgin Media’ billboard albeit the product has nothing to do with athletics, or David Beckham modelling ‘H&M’ underwear although having nothing to do with soccer. The list is endless: when endorsements are done by celebrities, it has been proven that there is more of an incentive for people to purchase that product, so we see with the Nigerian telecoms giant ‘Glo’ that there are so many endorsement deals with entertainers, and although some may say that the celebrities are the ones who gain with the exorbitant amounts they are paid for these deals, in actual fact it is the establishments who benefit most.. I digress; but what I am trying to show about the brilliance of the ALS ice bucket challenge is that without paying such amounts for their advertisement efforts, many celebrities and mega-superstars are endorsing the ALS fund raising drive and thus ensuring that many people are donating to the cause, celebrities such as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Lionel Messi, David Beckham, Lady Gaga to Oprah Winfrey, the list is endless.
Many have said that the Ice Bucket challenge is equivalent to clicking like on a Facebook page with no real impact on the problems, I will disagree with that analysis. Why? Firstly within my own circle of friends, the number of people who were aware of the ALS could be counted on the fingers of my right hand alone, that is if any knew; but with the awareness from the ice bucket challenge, many have become aware, and I will argue that awareness is the first step to solving problems that exist. Secondly, the statistical facts speak for themselves, The ALS Association announced on Sunday it has received $13.3 million (£8 million) in donations from over 250,000 people compared to $1.7 million during the same three-week period last year (29 July to 17 August). Now how is that for equivalence with Facebook likes?
In conclusion and as advice for budding Nigerian charities, trying to raise funds for worthy causes in a difficult economy like ours, we must understand that as the world moves forward, so do processes for advancing worthy causes. The No-Make up selfie championed by the Cancer Research UK raised over 8 Million Pounds for Cancer Reasearch UK in 6 days and similarly the ICE bucket challenge has raised similar amounts (as quoted above for the ALS foundation).
What will be the next big fund-raising drive, will it be yours?