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St. Jude promotes holiday giving with celebrity endorsements, social media outreach

St. Jude Children?s Research Hospital is urging people to give this holiday season through partnerships with more than 70 leading national brands and social media awareness.

St. Jude?s Thanks and Giving campaign marks its thirteenth year this holiday season, and will run throughout November and December. The campaign features a bevy of celebrity supporters as St. Jude continues to bring awareness of its more-than-worthy initiative of helping to treat deadly childhood illnesses to digital channels.

?Social media is not just a good channel to engage millennials around philanthropy, it's in most cases the only channel that charitable organizations should be focusing on to engage millennials,? said James McNally, director of digital strategy at TDT, New York. ?More traditional channels such as television or mass print mail are almost laughably anachronistic for engaging millennials around this content.?

Thanks and Giving
Celebrities participating in St. Jude?s Thanks and Giving campaign include Jennifer Aniston, Sofia Vergara, Michael Strahan and Jimmy Kimmel, all of whom lent their time towards the creation of the initiative?s television component, which premieres on November 21 and will also broadcast online. St. Jude is known for using celebrity endorsements from passionate partners to help drive awareness for the work it does.

Partnering brands include HomeGoods

?St. Jude Children's Research Hospital has aggressively pursued a celebrity-focused promotion strategy, and the list of past celebrity participants is certainly impressive,? Mr. McNally said. ?These get an opportunity to generate some feel-good PR, which likely means they waive or reduce what they might typically charge to serve as a spokesperson. 

This also means St. Jude doesn't have to create a real social campaign concept that engages on it's own?something that is challenging for any organization,? he said. ?It's also worth noting that the celebrity strategy is not without it's drawbacks: for example, this year's celebrity spokesperson lineup doesn't have as much traction with the millennial demographic as would be ideal. 

?It's an extremely cliche tactic too, and while that doesn't make it ineffective, if St. Jude could come up with a social campaign that engages and compels millennials without relying on celebrities, that ultimately would likely be more effective.  Jimmy Kimmel, for example, is hilarious, down-to-earth and cool, and has some influence among millennials, but at the same time, our eyes glaze over a bit whenever a celebrity starts promoting anything - even something as emotionally gripping and feel-good as St Jude's.?

Social awareness
Many top brands, such as Best Buy, Brooks Brothers and Marshalls are accepting in-store or online donations to St. Jude. The full list of partners can be found on St. Jude?s mobile-optimized Web site

The campaign also contains a dedicated social media component: users can find a photo of what they are thankful for or take one themselves, and then post the photo to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook tagging @StJude and #GiveThanks.

St. Jude is urging users to show why they give thanks

Similar feel-good campaigns abound this holiday season. Girls Scouts of America is assembling against sideline support with its latest initiative, which urges consumers to invest in young girls through a mobile donation platform (see story). 

And Macy?s, famous for the depth and scope of its holiday campaigns over the years, is running this year?s with a social media component that addresses the Internet?s most toxic corners (see story). 

?Charitable organizations would do well to create tight and effective Instagram and Facebook strategies,? Mr. McNally said. ?Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat are likely less important channels; they don't facilitate the type of targeting, connection or communication parameters that Instagram or Facebook do.?

Those interested can donate at