17 Nov 2014

The latest victim of ‘charity shaming’? It’s Adele

Reports that Adele “snubbed” Band Aid 30 have gone global, after Bob Geldof’s comments to a newspaper. He says his words were taken out of context. But are the days of discreet donations gone?

Love it or loathe it, Band Aid is back. Like the pied piper of pop, Bob Geldof gathered his subjects to record the 30-year-old song again to raise money for the Ebola crisis that has killed at least 5,000 in west Africa.

Among the many stars who took part, including YouTube star Zoella, One Direction and Olly Murs, the singer Adele was notable by her absence. Geldof had included her on the original line-up but she wasn’t at the recording session.

“Adele is doing nothing,” Geldof told the Sun newspaper. “She’s not answering the phone…she doesn’t want to be bothered by anyone. She won’t even pick up the phone to her manager. She’s bringing up a family, you know. Some people just don’t want to do it.”

He later denied reports of a “snub” as “complete nonsense” and said he had never approached her to take part. He claims his words were taken out of context.

But the damage has been done. His comments implying that Tottenham’s pop princess didn’t care enough to take part, were reported as far afield as LA and India.

A representative for Adele also said that she had never agreed to take part in the first place: “Bob and the organisers spoke directly with her management but at no point was she confirmed. Adele is supporting Oxfam’s Ebola Appeal with a donation.”

Read more: Does Bob Geldof know Africa's Ebola aid songs?

Donation shaming

The idea of quietly giving money to charity without publicising it now seems surprisingly old-fashioned – especially as stars are lining up to publicise their good deeds.

Post ice-bucket challenge, the no make-up selfie, and even the Just Giving website, it can seem that charity donations or volunteering don’t count any more unless they are a) in public, and b) happen to be coercing other people to give at the same time.

Perhaps this change in emphasis doesn’t matter. The Band Aid single is the fastest selling single of the year so far, while the phenomenally successful ice-bucket challenge had raised over $100m for ALS by 3 September – a reported 3,500 per cent increase during the same period for the previous year, according to Forbes. Not bad for a craze that involved famous people chucking ice over themselves, donating to ALS and nominating famous friends to do the same.

Everyone’s aware of some of the problems in Africa, and I’d put that down in a large part to band aid and live aid Douglas Graham

The Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA, the UK’s ALS equivalent) raised £7m from the challenge. Their head of fundraising, Douglas Graham, told Channel 4 News the charity had had over a million website visits in August as a result of the campaign.

“I don’t agree with this ideal that people must have an in depth understanding of the issue before taking part, or that people were ‘forced’ into anything,” he said.

The no make-up selfie campaign is another organic campaign which went viral in a way that fundraisers and marketing teams can only dream of. It raised £8m for Cancer Research, allowing the charity to undertake 10 clinical trials that it had previously been forced to cancel.

“As a charity we would never want to see anyone shamed into doing something, particularly on social media,” Cancer Resarch’s Natash Hill told Channel 4 News. “One of the reasons #nomakeupselfie was such a huge success is because people had a strong fear of missing out.”

VIDEO: Damon Albarn – ‘there are problems with our idea of charity’

The ‘nudge’ effect

From Adele being “outted”, to being “tagged” in a challenge on Facebook, it is all the natural next-step “using a more modern medium” said Fiona Callister, WaterAid’s head of media told Channel 4 News.

“Fundraising has for years strived to build a sense of community amongst donors to encourage people to support a charity,” she added. “So whether that is children going to neighbours with a sponsorship form for an event, people being given a sticker in return to show they have put some money in the bucket or colleagues challenging each other to grow a moustache, all are designed to nudge others in giving generously to the chosen charity.”

And while Sir Bob may be considered too self-righteous by the masses, he has the support of some of Britain’s fundraising community. “Everyone knows Sir Bob and what he’s achieved,” the MNDA’s Mr Graham told Channel 4 News. “Everyone’s aware of some of the problems in Africa, and I’d put that down in a large part to band aid and live aid. I think they’ll listen to him (this time around).”

As for Adele, the internet – or the vocal part of Twitter anyway – seems to have her back, and be supporting a more private approach to charity giving.

?@marnieofficial tweeted: “How dare Bob Geldof criticise Adele. She’s doing nothing according to him, you know, just raising a family. Prat”

@bryony_gordon: “Why is it ok for Geldof to shame Adele for not taking part in #BandAid30? Perhaps she’s quietly donated money instead.”

@PeripateNic: “Don’t like Bob Geldof shaming Adele inferring that in some way she’s uncharitable. Forgive her if she wants to focus on raising her son.”

@db2289: “What right has Bob Geldof got that he hassles Adele about bandaid, and demonises her when she says no? that’s her choice! Get over it Bob.”