Thousands make #nomakeupselfie donation error

Polar bear Many people accidentally enquired about adopting a polar bear

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Thousands of pounds donated as part of the "#nomakeupselfie" craze were sent to Unicef instead of Cancer Research UK by mistake, the BBC has learned.

More than £8m has been raised after the craze of taking a self-portrait with no make-up spread virally.

But those texting "DONATE" rather than "BEAT" found their money sent to the wrong charity.

Others accidentally inquired about adopting a polar bear from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

UN agency Unicef told the BBC that so far £18,625 has been identified as being accidentally pledged.

It said it was now working with Cancer Research UK to transfer the funds donated so they can be used as intended.

Mike Flynn, director of individual giving at Unicef UK, said it was a "genuine mix-up".

"Unicef believes this error has occurred due to those interested in donating to the #nomakeupselfie campaign sharing the text keyword 'DONATE' - rather than the keyword 'BEAT' - and the text number 70099, which has then been repeated across social media.

"'DONATE to 70099' is an SMS keyword and shortcode combination that Unicef have sole use of, specifically for any members of the public who contact us and wish to donate to us via SMS."

Kelly Rose Bradford no make up seflie The origin of the #nomakeupselfie trend is unclear

He added: "Unicef is not responsible for this error. However, we've been working hard to find a resolution to the situation for those affected.

"We contacted Cancer Research [UK] as soon as we became aware of what was happening. Unicef and Cancer Research [UK] have agreed that these donations will be received in full by Cancer Research [UK].

"We are now working closely with all parties involved to ensure that this doesn't happen again in the future."

Adopting polar bears

The #nomakeupselfie craze has taken social media by storm since flourishing last week. Its origins are unclear, but since going viral the trend has raised more than £8m for Cancer Research UK and other cancer charities.

But it has not been without mishaps for some well-meaning selfie takers.

As well as the Unicef mix-up, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) acknowledged that it too had accidentally received text messages due to the wrong keyword.

Some people's smartphones had autocorrected the word "BEAT" to instead read "BEAR".

"Thank you for choosing an adorable polar bear," the reply from the WWF said. "We will call you today to set up your adoption."

The autocorrect blunder surprised many who took to Twitter to joke about their adoption news.

"Just told Jamie to text 70007 for cancer and he accidentally sent bear," wrote Twitter user @ChrisKirk07. "Now he's got two polar bears."

The WWF said no money was taken from people who had sent the texts.

"Any texts sent to us instead of Cancer Research [UK] would not result in any donations going to help protect polar bears as WWF relies on human operators calling people back to confirm adoptions, so no money would have changed hands," said Kerry Blackstock, WWF's director of fundraising.

"When we realised there was a lot of interest in a campaign we weren't presently running we made sure our automatic text message response let the sender know their text had gone awry.

"We wish Cancer Research UK every success in their campaign and their goals. Polar bear selfies are harder to come by, though, as far as we are aware, none wear make up."

Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC


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  • rate this

    Comment number 141.

    I was surprised that the BBC article on the trend itself ( ) didn't pick up on how a great many make-up products have carcinogens. #CosmeticCarcinogens

  • rate this

    Comment number 140.

    A bit off-topic but I have reservations about some charities advertising for donations on afternoon TV, particularly those concerned with the abuse of children and animals.
    Some of the images shown are harrowing.
    I'm not convinced that is appropriate given that many viewers will be elderly, retired and on low incomes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 139.

    137. quiet owl

    At least you achieved something - all I did was help open a chemo unit in Dudley Zoo and adopted a lady from Gloucester with no make up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 138.

    Ha ha ha, I've done that multiple times on these forums! :)
    Bizarre that your post had been marked down.. so I marked it back up again for your good humour! :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 137.

    The "bear blunder" amused me so much that I went onto the WWF website and really did sign up to sponsor a polar bear. So I would guess they haven't done too badly out of this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 136.

    As well as the money raised from these selfies, I know of two women who have checked themselves for the first time ever. So, it is also raising awareness. I just hope that once it's all calmed down in a few weeks that folk will continue to check themselves and to donate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 135.

    'Appallingly excessive salaries for CRUK staff.'

    They are currently advertising for an Assistant Shop Manager at £6.75 p/h and a UX Designer at £40k - not out of line with rates in business.

  • rate this

    Comment number 134.

    133. marcolan
    "Appallingly excessive salaries for CRUK staff."
    I'm not funded by CRUK anymore but they paid me £12,700 a year in 2001.

    If you'd like to read the link I posted you'd see among other things a 17 fold increase in survival for colo-rectal cancer. If you think that "have yielded no benefits for human cancer treatment to date" you really don't know what you're talking about

  • rate this

    Comment number 133.

    131. HilaryJ Few patients have been or ever will be helped by the "research" done by CRUK over several years. They are a very cleverly run business; public donations are used to fund (1) horrible and pointless animal experiments, which, despite decades of research, have yielded no benefits for human cancer treatment to date, and (2) Appallingly excessive salaries for CRUK staff.

  • rate this

    Comment number 132.

    #130 I earn less than a teacher, work weekends and wonder if I'll have a job in 6 months because funding is in such short supply. Rather than make smug comments (I wonder what you do thats so worthwhile.... ) read up on how cancer survival rates have improved dramatically over the past 20 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 131.

    'Cancer Research... do NOTHING to help cancer victims.'

    They aren't a cancer care charity. Try Macmillan, Marie Curie or your local Hospice for that. But future patients will be helped greatly by new treatments arising from reasearch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 130.

    A lot of people have made a very good living out of cancer research for a very long time. As far as I can see the only 'breakthroughs' are ones that ...

    A/ require more funding
    B/ produce drugs too expensive to be used

    Perhaps we should accept our mortality and use all the money to look after the polar bears.

  • rate this

    Comment number 129.

    #127 Thats how we work. We look for immune responses to proteins expressed by cancers and if anything looks good we then look at what cancer that might work against rather than pick a specific cancer first and try and treat that. #122 Is incidentally working on a common fallacy that 100% of taxes raised on tobacco go to the NHS. I wish. They mostly get spent on our national debt & benefit bill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    I would urge people NOT do donate to Cancer Research. They are a business, not a charity, and they do NOTHING to help cancer victims. They also sponsor very cruel and useless animal experiments. Stay away from these guys, they are a disgrace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 127.

    'Given that funding for research is limited someone has to make hard choices.'

    It also makes sense to channel funds in areas were there are promising lines of research. Although there are many kinds of cancer the knowledge gained in one kind may well be of benefit in others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 126.

    119. And_here_we_go_again
    The whole point of this article is that several charities use the same number"

    Yep - There are only a limited number of "short code" numbers, so they are very expensive to get (eg £1000 per month). So, phone companies share numbers among many customers for a lower price, and use a keyword to sort them out. It's not just charities - loads of companies do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 125.

    "Absolutely right, I made a complete fool of myself.
    Oh well, live and (hopefully) learn."

    Ha ha ha, I've done that multiple times on these forums! :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 124.

    #122 'highest fatality rate' is an interesting phrase. That would be pancreatic, adult leukemias or certain brain tumours. Almost 100% fatal. Given that funding for research is limited someone has to make hard choices. The tumours we go after are childhood cancers (disproportionate funding) & those that hit adults at relatively young age (inherited breast) not those that mainly kill the elderly

  • rate this

    Comment number 123.

    First thing I did when I read this was check that "autocorrect" really was a word, let alone a verb.
    Wow! Itreally is! ...But shuold be hyphenated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 122.

    Peter_sym - It doesn't matter. At all. Lung cancer should receive the MOST funding as it has the highest fatality rate. Someone should not get lower priority just because they smoke. You should be very, very grateful to smokers, the tax we pay on our cigarettes is through the roof and without it the country would be screwed. We all know it raises more money for the NHS than it uses...


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