Cards Against Humanity Saves America
- Exhibited by
- Sarah Crowhurst, Senior Digital Strategist, Open
- February 28, 2019
- Medium of Communication
- Email, social media, online
- Target Audience
- Type of Charity
- Country of Origin
- Date of first appearance
- November 2017
A gem from I Wish I’d Thought Of That (IWITOT) 2019. A non-traditional fundraising campaign in every sense of the word, ‘Cards Against Humanity Saves America’ saw the irreverent card game encourage supporters to donate $15 to buy a piece of land in Mexico in a bid to thwart Donald Trump’s nefarious border wall proposal. Working from Twitter and with a simple proposal, they managed the campaign using humour, rule-breaking and being downright outrageous. Along the way they managed the incredible feat of raising over two million dollars in just nine hours. And they called Trump a toilet on Twitter as well, so this is a winner in every sense of the word.
Summary / objectives
A campaign to ‘Save America’ which broke the rules of how we traditionally fundraise. With Donald Trump spreading lies about a ‘humanitarian crisis’ at the US/Mexico border, Cards Against Humanity, the ‘card game for horrible people’ decided to take action to fight the President’s narrative and raise money for good causes.
As he attempted to force Congress to fund his border wall, Donald Trump raised the phantom (a polite way of saying he lied) of a humanitarian crisis unfolding at the US/Mexican border as huge numbers of people attempted to cross into the Land of the Free. Yet we know he was lying because the data shows a continued drop in the number of people trying to enter the US illegally and he’s also being sued over his emergency declaration.
The truth is that rampant violence in Central American states like Guatemala and Honduras has fuelled a refugee crisis and the people now trying to enter the US are genuine asylum seekers. And not everyone believes that Trump’s approach to this crisis is the right one. And who better to play Trump at his own game than a game that is willing to break the rules – just like he does every day?
Enter Cards Against Humanity. If you haven’t heard of it, it is a politically incorrect card game where players to take turns reading suggestion cards and reacting with dark or explicit responses. You win by making the most inappropriate combination of cards. Cards Against Humanity turned up – fighting fire with fire – in Trump’s playground - Twitter.
And the way they went about the campaign was literally the opposite to how many of us would approach launching a new fundraising campaign.
The campaign they launched was to ‘Save America’ – ambiguous at best. Kinda like Trump’s ‘Make America Great Again’.
And this is where to start to see them breaking the rules – where is the need and solution and how do I fit into all of this? This was all about them producing what they’ve described as their biggest stunt to date. They tweeted:
‘The government is being run by a toilet. We have no choice... we are going to save America and attempt to keep our brand relevant in 2017’.
Using Twitter this way, they mobilised 150,000 of their supporters to make a $15 gift. Not many of us would dream of launching a campaign to recruit email supporters on Twitter – literally the day before the campaign was launched. But the intrigue worked with their loyal supporters
And with a couple of simple tweets to join in, no branding campaign, no huge media cost, the campaign was launched.
And going against what we think of in fundraising around supporter journeys, they sent only one email to their fans.
'After accidentally seeing CNN on a TV at the airport, we realized our country needed us. It's time to suit up for one last mission. Cards Against Humanity is going to save America.'
They also made the campaign target limited in scope opening up only 150,000 slots and making the campaign feel exclusive. Not something we’re used to seeing in the fundraising world.
Fans were asked to give $15 and they’d receive 6 surprises in the mail. They didn't tell them what was coming next. But doesn’t any good fundraising campaign tell supporters what their money will achieve?
This video explains what then happened:
Not only did they buy a plot of land – but they also gave back to communities: they gave money to low income earners to help pay off debts and they searched crowdfunding platforms for school fundraisers and made a donation that would help that school reach their goal.
Here are the politically motivated stunts they revealed one by one in their words:
Day One: To kick off the campaign, we purchased a plot of vacant land on the US/Mexico border and hired eminent domain lawyers to make it as time–consuming and expensive as possible for the Trump Administration to build a wall there. We also built a for-real working trebuchet on the land. You know, just in case.
Day Two: We hear all the bad news, but we rarely hear the good news too. To make each day more bearable, we released a daily show called The Good News Podcast that will now run for a full year, ad-free.
Day Three: To call attention to wealth inequality in America, we took $250,000 from the campaign and gave it to people who needed it more. We sent $1,000 checks to 100 people, and interviewed recipients to hear how how receiving the money quite simply changed their lives.
Day Four: We partnered with DonorsChoose.org and gave over $100,000 worth of supplies, books, and field trips to to low-income classrooms across the country.
Day Five: We funded a public opinion poll to dive deep into the minds of the American people, and boy did we find some stuff. We're making all the data public and shareable.
Day Six: We sponsored a minor league baseball team and changed the name of their stadium to "The Cards Against Humanity Baseball Place," therefore creating the most elite fandom in sports. Go Slammers!
One of things I love about this campaign is how Cards Against Humanity had fun with it. They trolled Trump. The game allows you to say the most ridiculous things, and so they did too. And they moved people to hope and aspiration. That each and every one of them could make a difference by owning a little plot of land in Mexico. A really different way to feel involved with a campaign.
150,000 followers of Cards Against Humanity gave $15 each - that’s $2.25 million. Oh, and they raised it all in just nine hours.
- Donated over $300,000 to charitable causes, including DonorsChoose.org and the Chicago Children's Museum.
- The campaign received coverage in every major news outlet, including Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, AdWeek, Business Insider, TIME, The Chicago Tribune, The AV Club, and The Huffington Post, and trended on Facebook and on Twitter.
- The Cards Against Humanity Saves America announcement video was the top trending video on YouTube the day of release. The video was written and produced in-house and has 1.5 million views on YouTube.
- FiveThirtyEight included Cards Against Humanity's Pulse of the Nation poll on their website as a permanent installation for the length of the poll.
- With their $1,000 gift, 100 families were able to purchase holiday gifts and groceries, and pay off loans and credit card bills that they wouldn't have been able to otherwise.
- Matched donations from 1,000 donors on DonorsChoose.org to fully fund 380 projects in 256 schools. We served 27,546 students in 44 states.
Michelle Obama famously said ‘When they go low, we go high’. But for Cards Against Humanity this definitely wasn’t the case. Cards against Humanity is all about ridiculous headline-grabbing stunts - just like the President of America - and both were totally open to breaking the rules.
This campaign is about playing the President at his own game. This is about the rise of the rule breakers. Everything I’ve talked through about why this campaign worked was because they didn’t run a traditional campaign. They followed in Trump's footsteps of breaking rules, they rallied a crowd and made their own rules up to fight against him.