Dryathlon: Why Digital Media is so important for Charity Campaigns

By Patrick Nash

Last month, thousands of people traded booze for fundraising in a bid to improve their health and to do their bit for Cancer Research UK. The Dryathlon campaign allowed users to update and compare their progress online. This is another example of why digital media is important for the charity sector.

Although January saw the fairy lights dimmed and the decorations packed away safely for next year, it is undoubtedly a month when many are tempted to prolong the Christmas feasting and drinking.

However, for the whole of January over 35,000 people (or ‘dryathletes’ as they’re now known) participated in the first ever Dryathlon which has raised over £3 million in donations for Cancer Research UK.

With festive overindulgence leaving jeans feeling tighter and that usual sprint to catch the train on time for work that little bit more tiring, January is a good time of year for attempting to curb bad habits. Therefore the Cancer Research UK Dryathlon challenged the public to give up alcohol for one whole month.

Cancer Research UK’s Dryathlon utilised digital communication channels to help spread the campaign message while also motivating participants throughout their challenge with emailed hints and tips. The public were also encouraged to donate online.

‘Dryathletes’ could choose to participate on their own or as part of a team, with pub quiz teams attempting to stay on the wagon together.  With every milestone reached participants were awarded online badges to mark their progress as well as encouraging them to continue with their month long journey.  Furthermore, an online leader board meant participants and teams could battle against each other for the most donations.

Parallels can be drawn with the immensely popular Movember which takes place annually every November and takes full advantage of digital media channels.  However, Dryathlon has the added advantage of allowing women to participate too as well as being that little bit more challenging to everyday lifestyles.

As Dryathlon and Movember exemplify, digital media can provide many benefits for charity campaigns.  For the general public, donations can be made simply, quickly and are easy to track.  Simultaneously, participants can track the progress of their fundraising whilst charities can more easily offer them support throughout their challenge in a way that a simple posted pack at the beginning of their journey can’t.  The online leader board also encourages competition amongst fundraisers to raise more, ultimately resulting in an increased number of donations.

Furthermore, promoting the challenge online significantly reduces costs for producing campaign material and has the added advantage of being able to be spread across many different social media channels, again increasing the charity and campaign’s reach and potential audience.

Many participants chose twitter as a platform to ask for donations from their followers whilst using the #dryathlon hashtag. This generated many conversations, which is still ongoing as many people are still tweeting about their experiences and the positive impact this is continuing to have on their health and lifestyle habits.

Undoubtedly part of the success of the Dryathlon campaign is that it fits with the habits of the general public, who view January as a good time to detox – combining this with the added incentive of raising money for a good cause.

I certainly expect to see the return of the Dryathlon next January, as it’s another example of a charity boosting its fundrasing potential through online channels and a touch of creative flair.

While some success of the campaign can be seen in the short and long term positive effects on the health of dryathletes, the real beneficiaries are the past, present and future cancer survivors who benefit from the work of Cancer Research UK in their quest to find a cure for the disease.

One thought on “Dryathlon: Why Digital Media is so important for Charity Campaigns

  1. Pingback: Digital: Superb or Superfluous? | Will Barker

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