Making a difference with design: How a creative campaign helped the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation exceed fundraising goals

Case Study by Dali Rundo RGD, Senior Graphic Designer, The 4D


The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation (PMCF) wanted a campaign to spread cancer awareness and raise money for World Cancer Day with digital media as the main platform. It would be the first time PMCF used digital media as the main fundraising vehicle.



PMCF began raising funds for cancer research in 1982, raising over $1 billion. PMCF is passionate about conquering cancer in our lifetime and is on a mission to raise and steward funds to deliver breakthrough research, exemplary teaching and compassionate care at The Princess Margaret, one of the top five cancer research centres in the world. This campaign was a complete departure from anything they had done before.


The campaign goals were:

  • Gross revenue: $1.1M (Net revenue: $500K)
  • #NoHairSelfie hashtag: Trending on Twitter on World Cancer Day
  • App downloads: 25K
  • Virtual #NoHairSelfies in gallery: 6K


I worked as part of the 4D team to develop campaign ideas to compete with the Movember Foundation and St. Baldrick’s Foundation. We decided that, to attract differentiate this from these fundraising campaigns, our project needed to have a cool, urban personality and communicate with our audience in the digital sphere.


A custom-designed, fully responsive website optimized for social media allowed for social media interaction and campaign participation, with an innovative app. We incorporated the #nohairselfie logo, provided by PMCF, into a design that focuses on real and virtual head shaving, using clean, bold design, illustration and photography.


Design was instrumental to the success of the campaign in the following ways:

  • Creating a concept that would become instantly recognizable and easy to share, with clear, consistent design execution
  • Making strategic typography, colour, layout and content choices to encourage social participation
  • Prioritizing clarity and simplicity so that it would be easy for people coming to the website for the first time to participate, donate or share
  • Adhering to AODA standards to address the needs of people with various physical and cognitive disabilities
  • Selecting inclusive photography to cut across barriers such as age, race and sex

Innovative tools included:

  • Text-to-donate
  • Selfie app upload
  • Selfie/story gallery

Client’s Involvement 

The campaign turned into real and virtual head shaving. An app was developed and social media was used to spread the word. A PR company worked hard to get the right people involved, and an event was organized at Steam Whistle Brewery. Trade Secrets provided head shaving at the event and in their salons. The client team was involved throughout the process; their knowledge and expertise was invaluable. Overall it was a huge success.



The Project wouldn’t have been the same without:

  • 4D’s Rejoy Chatterjee used his words to bring “hairwareness” to the campaign
  • 4D’s Peter Nun animated the video commercial
  • The excellent 4D development team lead by Dru Vagale
  • 4D’s Art Director, Robert Fudge kept a sharp eye on everything and provided invaluable support
  • 4D’s Strategist, Micky Singh, created the strategy and set the direction for the project
  • Photographer Paul Alexander, documented the main shaving event
  • The PMCF team

Everything had to be completed in three months. The campaign itself lasted a month. Under such tight timelines the only way to meet all the requirements and achieve the goals was to work tightly as a team.

For this project, exceeding accessibility standards was a priority. We wanted the design to be inclusive in every possible way. We incorporated photography featuring models with different backgrounds, genders, ages and then ensuring the design would be accessible on different devices, for users with different motor skills.


Through the website and app, more real and virtual “hairticipants” participated and more funds were raised than anticipated. In one month,
#NoHairSelfie generated a number of positive impacts:

  • #NoHairSelfie hashtag: Trended number 3 on Twitter on World Cancer Day
  • Gross revenue: $1.8M (+64% above target)
  • Net revenue: $1.2M (+140% above target)
  • App downloads: 57K (+120% above target)
  • Virtual #NoHairSelfies in gallery: 21K (+250% above target)

The ultimate success for me is knowing that I was part of a project that has impacted individual lives. In this case: our friends, fathers, mothers, sisters, children who are or have been cancer patients.


Apple selected #NoHairSelfie App as one of the best new apps for 2015. The design won North American Excellence Awards for the best website design, best app design and best marketing strategy. We are still getting awards for the creative, including:

  • 2016 North American Excellence Awards for Multi-Market Communication; Website and Mobile Communication and Social Apps
  • 2016 AVA Platinum Digital Award Winner for Best Digital Marketing Campaign
  • 2016 Hermes Creative Gold Award for Best Website
  • 2016 CAMP Marketing Awards Marketer of the Year – Nonprofit: Agency credit

For designers interested in contributing their creative skills to a worthy cause, my advice is to rise to design from the heart. Focus on the message and make sure that it is delivered in the most direct, simple way. Do this by following basic design principles (and read these books, no matter what your level of experience, which also happen to be the suggested texts for RGD's Certification Process): 

Designer Takeaways

  1. Your team is the project; everybody involved is invaluable to the success of the end result.
  2. A meaningful cause carries a special energy; knowing that the design makes a difference in another person’s life makes the project that much more powerful.
  3. The client is your best friend; they have unique insights.

Client Takeaways

  1. Work with us, we can make it happen
  2. Give creative freedom to the design agency
  3. A simple design solution is almost always the best