In an article that you could have sworn was written five years ago, a recent USA Today piece discusses the rise of the silicon wristband in the charity fundraising world. Recalling the meteoric rise of the yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet and its predecessor harking back to the Vietnam War days, the article highlights how such a small token of support has been a boon for many nonprofits. The article points out how the yellow bracelet has raised $80 million for cancer research and how smaller efforts like one spearheaded by Stephen Colbert have also raised big bucks. Of course, these wristbands abound. There is no shortage of causes that have an accompanying bracelet to raise both funds and awareness. And, as the bracelet itself has been mocked and parodied, giving it mainstream status, the real question is: do people still wear these?
I wore a green one for some time, mainly in 2006-2007, to raise awareness about the genocide happening in Darfur, Sudan. I eventually took it off even though I still supported the cause. Up until then, I wore it everywhere (I even showered with it). I wore it with collared shirts and slacks and even while running a half-marathon. Honestly, I don't know what ultimately prompted its removal, other than some sort of internal signal that it was time to part ways.
I've seen several friends and colleagues wear bracelets, often related to a particular short-term initiative or a long-term fight. Amazingly (at least in my world), the ubiquity of the bracelets doesn't dull their potential impact. Perhaps it's because I live in the nonprofit world, but if I notice a new color or I know a friend has added this accessory to his or her wardrobe, I always ask what the bracelet is calling attention to. Which leads to a story. Which leads to the education of one more person.
The bracelet still works.
So even if the craze seems to have abated on a large scale, the impact is still happening on a small one. And this is a good thing for organizations who use the bracelet as a way to spread their message while funding their work. Each is after meaningful impact, and that's what they're getting.
Maybe the better question is what's next?
So tell us:
What do you think is next? Cell phone covers? Dog tags? Bluetooth headset bling? Or, share in the comments if you still wear a bracelet, and if so, for what?