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 101.

    what a shame

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    For all of those who say this is simply an excuse for narcissism... Sadly narcissists don't need an excuse to post a 'selfie' on FB. Until nominated to post a no make up selfie, I had never before posted a selfie on FB. This is just a bit of fun with a great outcome and, although I donate to charity regularly, it probably wouldn't have crossed my mind to make a random £3 donation last week.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    76. Hales78
    1 HOUR AGO
    Cancer...helps keeps population numbers down. Find cures for cancers, other diseases will come along to fill it's place. At some point though, overpopulation will cause the most suffering to many more people.
    I guess you haven't got a close relative with cancer. I have. My comment would probably be banned if I wrote what I thought of you.

  • Comment number 98.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    I have been donating huge amounts of money, but people keep posting their pictures. The fact that women think this makes them brave in any way says a huge amount about how broken they are.

    How much do we have to part with to make it stop?

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    87.It Tastes Salty

    I understand why some people are wound up by this mistake if I'd made a donation and it accidently went on aids I'd go 'proper mental' cos (due to religious reasons) I don't agree with their lifestyle..."

    What lifestyle is that then? I expect if someone in your family contracted HIV/AIDS from a blood transfusion prior to screening, you'd be advocating research...

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    @pique - that would be a matter for the charities concerned to sort out, if a genuine mix-up has occurred on a large enough scale.

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    85. Jonny Boy
    You'd think cancer was the only disease that existed considering the coverage it gets
    Its at least 240 different diseases, 1 in 3 of us will develop it & it'll kill 1 in 5 of us. With the possible exception of heart disease (which is less obviously treatable as such) its the biggest cause of death in the UK. It also has a nasty habit of getting kids and those in their 20s-30s

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    Says something about our society that women not wearing make up is a big deal.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    81.Global Yawning
    'It was a tongue in cheek comment ....Get your cardigan on, get outside and get some fresh air'

    Sure, I know. Just back from my lunchtime walk. Needed a waterproof jacket as well though. Have you been out?

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    I donated and I give anyway to cancer reasearch and the polar bears so everyone wins.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    86. Dave : As I am a cancer researcher I can tell you. If the "cure" is developed by CRUK they'll licence it to a major drug firm (the only people who can make pharmaceuticals) and use the profits to help fund more research. If a university came up with a potential therapy they'd do the same.

    Why would the NHS get it for free when the NHS hasn't contributed a penny to the research?

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    It's not a bad thing that someone cottoned on to the fact that people's attachment to social media and need for physical reassurance could make money, big time. Shame some went to the wrong place, but let's face it, publicity for everyone involved, which can't be bad.
    As a photographer I loathe the word "selfie" though. I might start up business doing selfies for people....

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    Whilst noone can deny that the amount raised is a great achivement. However the idea that posting a picture of yourself without makeup is somehow a brave thing to do or indeed at all related to cancer is makes me uneasy. A side message of this campaign seems to be "women, don't be seen in public without makeup" and that's rubbish.

  • Comment number 87.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    I'd like to know what would happen with any major breakthrough from something like cancer research? As the research funding came from donations would the cure be sold to the NHS at cost, or would some massive pharmaceutical company make millions off it? Or are these companies contributing to the charity?

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    You'd think cancer was the only disease that existed considering the coverage it gets

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    It's great that so much money has been raised but it's a shame that the costs of the administration of this will presumably have to be absorbed by UNICEF? Perhaps this example will help those who are critical of charity spending on Admin understand that not only is there often a cost in raising money but, in this case, handing it over to another charity!

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    I think we are all worn out with so much fund raising! Give it a break!

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    I ordered one of the Polar Bears from WWF, but was told they have run out due to high demand. I wonder when they will get some more stock in.


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