Do Big Stunts Bring Big Results?

Fundraising galas and walkathons a bit too tame for your blood? Perhaps a little body art, a hostage goldfish or a brush with death would be more your style. You wouldn’t be alone. Cause supporters are going to extremes these days to prove their devotion to a cause.

The Social Tattoo Project is hoping a few diehard advocates will get inked in the name of a cause. The Project reveals four topics each week, and via crowdsourced voting, decides which lucky volunteer will soon have a permanent reminder of a cause or event that mattered in that moment (#humantrafficking, #Haiti, #Norway, #poverty and #Japan, so far).

To increase awareness about plastic pollution in the Pacific Ocean, Project Kaisei put the fate of real goldfish “Kai” in the hands of supporters. Only with their donations would Kai avoid moving from his safe aquatic environment into the polluted waters beyond his clear plastic wall. A live Facebook feed implored donors to help “Save Kai” as time ticked by.

Even more traditional nonprofit brands such as the Boy Scouts of America, the Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation of America are taking a walk on the wild side. Some of their supporters are repelling down the sides of skyscrapers to solicit donations. Over the Edge, the company that organizes these events, has worked with 62 nonprofits in 2011 alone.

Perhaps desperate times call for extreme measures, but are these efforts making any real impact on the issues? The answer is, it depends. Ill-conceived stunts (remember the Twitter death of dozens of celebs a few months ago?) can easily garner more jokes than dollars, but if your supporters need a little pressure to say, fish or cut bait, a creative and dramatic campaign may be just the motivation they need.


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