What Can You Learn from “The Naked Philanthropist”?

Kaylen Ward, who refers to herself as “The Naked Philanthropist,” has a few things she can teach you about fundraising.

The first thing the 20-year-old can teach you is the value of being honest when promoting yourself and your organization. “The Naked Philanthropist” is not a euphemism. Ward really has donated money she earned by posing nude. Furthermore, by leveraging her nudity, she encourages others to give as well.

Kaylen Ward — The Naked Philanthropist

The raging wildfires in Australia caught the attention of Ward, a resident of California, a state often plagued by brush fires. She decided to take action.

“I donated $1,000 myself,” she tells Guardian Australia. “I had a substantial amount of followers, maybe 30,000 at the time, and I thought that a lot of my followers would pitch in and send in some donations for the wildfires.”

While Instagram has suspended Ward’s account, her Twitter account now has over 288,000 Followers (Jan. 7, 2020). More importantly, Ward tells the Guardian that she estimates that $700,000 has been donated as a result of her efforts in just four days!

Here’s how Ward did it. On January 3, she tweeted (below) that she would Direct Message a nude photo of herself to anyone who provided proof that they had donated $10 or more to any number of charities dealing with the Australian fires, ranging from the Australian Red Cross to the World Wildlife Fund – Australia. Her tweet, liked over 198,000 times, includes a list of qualifying charities (below) and a barely censored image of herself (not shown).

So, here are just six things you can learn from Ward:

1. Do not fall victim to generational stereotypes.

Ward is a member of Generation Z. Gen Z is the cohort following the Millennial Generation. It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that younger people are not particularly philanthropic. They tend not to give as much to charity as older people, and they tend to be less brand-loyal than those of older generations are. However, that doesn’t mean that younger folks aren’t generous relative to their personal income. Furthermore, just because they may not have developed loyalty to a particular charity does not mean they have no interest in philanthropy. In Ward’s case, she not only gave $1,000 of her own money, she encouraged tens of thousands of other people to donate as well.

2. Emotionally move prospective donors.

Ward’s behavior demonstrates what can happen when someone is emotionally moved by powerful messages and/or images. That’s particularly true when those messages or images are something with which recipients can personally identify. When Ward saw news reports about the Australian bush fires, it reminded her of her own experience with the recent California wildfires. She saw the devastation was vast, now encompassing an area twice the size of the state of Maryland. She saw wildlife in danger, particularly koalas. Despite not having any personal connection to Australia, events there nevertheless moved her to take action. When you touch someone’s emotions, they are more likely to act.

3. Leverage social media.

Ward used her Instagram and Twitter accounts to encourage others to help. You can also use social media to interact with potential supporters, promote your cause, and raise money by inspiring people to give. While you aren’t likely to raise nearly $1-million online in just four days, social media can still be an effective part of a multi-channel communications strategy for your charity. The key is to identify what you want to accomplish while remaining realistic.

4. Engage prospective donors.

Many people want to engage with the charities they support. For your nonprofit organization, that might mean having questions addressed, receiving invitations to events, discussing current events, participating in action alerts, etc. On Twitter, Ward engages people, even those who have been critical of her effort. The engagement makes people think they’re all in the fight together and that, together, they can achieve something positive.

5. Thank donors in a personal, heartfelt way.

Ward thanks every documented donor of $10 or more to a qualifying charity. She does so in the most personal way possible: She shares a nude image of herself. I’m not suggesting that you should thank donors in that way. In my case, people might pay me not to see that. However, I am suggesting that you thank donors quickly, warmly, and meaningfully.

6. Work with what you’ve got.

I talk frequently with fundraising professionals who tell me what they can’t do because they don’t have the staff or budget resources. Sometimes they think creatively about how they can maximize results based on limited resources. Other times, they use their limited resources as an excuse for not hitting their goal. Ward has shown how a bit of creativity can lead to fantastic results. Without a massive following, without a promotional budget, without fundraising experience, Ward has donated and inspired others to donate nearly $1-million in less than a week. Instead of focusing on what she couldn’t do, she looked at what she could do. If you exercise a bit of creativity and focus on what you can do, you might just surprise yourself with the results you’re able to achieve.

You may or may not agree with Ward’s use of personal nudity for philanthropic purposes. However, you would be wise to recognize the valuable things we can learn from The Naked Philanthropist.

That’s what Michael Rosen says… What do you say?


UPDATE (January 8, 2020): Kaylen Ward now estimates that her efforts have generated charitable contributions of over $1-million in response to the bush fires in Australia although that number has not been independently verified. Ward’s Twitter account now has over 387,000 Followers.

UPDATE (January 8, 2020): Another lesson we can learn from Kaylen Ward’s efforts to encourage philanthropy is that we need to make donating easy. One way Ward accomplished this was by providing people with a list of relevant charities and their URLs so that people could easily select a charity to support. It’s important for charities to make it easy for individuals to give money.

5 Responses to “What Can You Learn from “The Naked Philanthropist”?”

  1. This is one of your best blogs, I’m with you, my donors would pay not to see me nude. But this was intriguing. Another lesson here is don’t judge a book by its cover, or lack thereof!

    • Linda, thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. One of the interesting things I’ve noticed about this post is that, while it has received extraordinarily high readership, it has been shared very little. Given the career and philanthropy methods of Kaylen Ward, I’m not particularly surprised. Nevertheless, like you, I believe there are things we can learn from this young woman who encouraged folks to donate over $1-million in less than a week.

  2. Struggling here, Michael. This seems quite a stretch to highlight. Yes, lessons to be learned but is an unspoken message that sensationalism sells? While this person can do as she pleases I do wonder with issues in fundraising and other professions related to #MeToo if this is a campaign to highlight.

    • Sophie, thank you for outlining your concerns which I fully understand. Let me address each of your points. 1) Yes, sensationalism sells. Perhaps this is sad, but it’s definitely true. The Naked Philanthropist proves that point. For that matter, the Ice Bucket Challenge does as well. 2) Is it “appropriate” for women or men to objectify themselves? Not from my perspective. However, I respect every individual’s right to choose what is right for them. Ward’s activities are legal and do not directly harm others. 3) Sexual harassment and #MeToo are about victimization of individuals by people in power. This is not the situation that Ward finds herself in. She is in full control of her actions and her body. It’s her free choice. If we were to imply she is doing something wrong, we would be victimizing her to a degree; this is often a problem faced by adult entertainers.

      Ward’s choices would not be mine (besides, no one wants to see me naked). However, I respect her right to choose for herself and her desire to be philanthropic and encourage others to do so as well. As for whether I should have highlighted her activities, why not? Her activities have already been the subject of mainstream news coverage. Furthermore, I honestly do believe that there are lessons that we all can learn from Ward’s story. Why should I have shunned her?

      Now, having said what I have, I do recognize that not all of my readers will approve of what Ward is doing. I’ve even noticed that this is one of my most-read posts though it is also one of the least shared. I’m not asking anyone to approve or disapprove of what Ward is doing. I’m simply suggesting two things: 1) We can learn somethings from this young woman, and 2) Whether or not we support her methods, we can appreciate her philanthropic spirit and impact.


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