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Viral money: 5 hashtags that banked serious bucks in 2014

A mad dash for hash cash

CNBC's Scott Wapner, Becky Quick and Jim Cramer take the Ice Bucket Challenge in support of ALS research.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

Hashtag campaigns and viral videos can spread meaningful charitable messages, but can they bank serious cash?

After a year of charitable hashtags and videos going viral in 2014, the answer appears to be yes.

One big-hearted person is usually required to start something special for those in need. And founders of charities are increasingly able to spread their passion for a cause using little more than a tweet or co-opting of a trending hashtag. In some cases, the power of social media has enabled charities to be helped by viral campaigns started by their own passionate core of supporters.

Still need proof that social media can change the world? Any hashtag that can get the fractious members of iconic rock band Kiss to put aside their differences and act unselfishly has to be judged a success.

So here are our picks for the top 5 charitable hashtags of 2014.

Posted Saturday, Dec. 27, 2014
By Lauren Flick, CNBC Producer


NoMakeUpSelfie campaign to raise money for cancer research in the U.K.

Selfies were big in 2014—thanks to Oscar host Ellen Degeneres!

Women—including Beyoncé and Gwyneth Paltrow—posted bare-faced selfies with the hashtag #nomakeupselfies to all forms of social media.

That viral trend led in a circuitous route to Cancer Research UK being smart enough to pick up on the trending #nomakeupselfie hashtag. The charity posted messages on social media asking people to help "beat cancer sooner" and asked for donations via text message, or directly through its website.

In 24 hours, Cancer Research UK had seen their first million, and by day two that number tripled. By the end of one week, contributions soared to almost $13 million dollars.

Cancer Research UK wasn't the only feel-good British selfie sensation this year ...


Yellowdog | Getty Images

After a terrible fire in September claimed the lives of 60 dogs at the Manchester Dog's Home—an organization in Manchester, England which rescues and cares for thousands of canines each year—a local resident took it upon himself to make a difference.

Joe Farrar, 25, set up a Facebook page called #DogSelfie to help the troubled dogs' home. The campaign encouraged dog owners to share a selfie of themselves with their dogs, and hopefully donate to the animal shelter as well.

Farrar helped raise awareness for a broader campaign—backed by the local Manchester Evening News paper—that had raised more than $2 million for the dog shelter in September.

Manchester's dogs weren't the only furry creatures raising some serious cash for a good cause this year ...


Alexey Avdeev | Getty Images

Movember was established in 2003. So why are we talking about this charity in 2014?

There are $600 million reasons to talk about Movember. Since its inception, it has raised $600 million dollars for saving and improving the lives of men affected by prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health problems.

The endeavor took shape as many activities do—over beers. Movember founder and CEO Adam Garone was sitting with his brother and a few friends discussing the demise of the moustache, or "Mo" as the Aussie's call it, and how they could bring it back into fashion.

In November 2003, they challenged each other to a 30-day "grow and groom." After the fun and buzz of their journey, they wanted to keep it going. Inspired by women's breast cancer campaigns, Adam and his friends decided to address men's health issues with their "mo's" and make it an annual event.

The campaign first began using social media in 2008. This past year, the #movember challenge raised over $76 million, proving the power of facial hair.


Jemina Khan takes the WakeUpCall selfie challenge to help the children of Syria.
Source: Jemina Khan | Twitter

Adding to the selfie fundraising fad is a campaign that actually sprung directly from the charitable organization itself—the #WakeUpCall selfie. This campaign was started by UNICEF's UK Ambassador Jemima Kahn to encourage people to wake up to the Syrian crisis, and make a donation to UNICEF's work to help children affected by the emergency.

Celebrities, including Liam Neeson, Naomi Campbell and Tom Hiddleston, are just a few famous faces that have snapped a selfie —first thing in the morning—for this cause.

UNICEF has raised more than 12 million dollars for Syrian children since October. The charity doesn't break out how much of the donations was specifically spurred by the #wakeupcall campaign. However, the initiative raised a huge amount of awareness for the crisis in Syria, reaching more than 400 million people through Twitter, according to UNICEF.


Members of Kiss take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
Getty Images

Probably the most famous viral campaign of 2014 was the #IceBucketChallenge.

ALS patients Pat Quinn and Pete Frates served as inspiration for a campaign that evolved into a cultural phenomenon. By simply dumping a bucket of ice cold water over someone's head and posting those few seconds to social media, it not only raised awareness but raised millions in donations.

The Ice Bucket Challenge has raised $115 million dollars, according to the ALS Association. That dwarfs the $5 million the organization raised last year. "There was one day in August where we were seeing ten million dollars a day in donations," said an ALS Association spokesman.

Among those helping to raise all of that money for ALS was rock band Kiss, which was called out by Motley Crue. Needless to say, the ice water challenge tested the resolve of the group's famous makeup.