News and analysis
April 01, 2015

On April Fools’ Day, an Aid Charity Morphs Into a Deli and Prank Videos Raise Money

Courtesy of Team Rubicon
Team Rubicon chief executive Jake Wood at the “Team Reubencon” deli.

Saving the world is hard work. So when April Fools’ Day rolls around, several nonprofits take a brief break from business to have a little fun with their supporters.

"We have a pretty serious mission, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously," said Bobbi Snethen, head of digital engagement for Team Rubicon, the disaster-relief organization.

Nonprofits’ pranks range in complexity and purpose. Here are some of this year’s stunts.

Ancient History

Keep America Beautiful is keeping it simple with a social-media post featuring a recycling symbol carved into an Egyptian tablet along with the message, "Archaeologists recently discovered the very first recycling symbol — in ancient hieroglyphics!"

Candid Camera is benefiting from a partnership with professional pranksters: the creative minds behind popular YouTube series "Prank It FWD," which grants nice surprises to unsuspecting people. This week, 14 new videos will be released, some involving YouTube stars from the online programs Smosh and Screen Junkies.

Defy Media, which produces Prank It FWD, will donate $1 to for every 1,000 views the videos receive, plus $1 for every mention and share of #PrankItFWD on social media. One video of a man surprising his longtime fiancée with a wedding at a New Jersey movie theater already has nearly 500,000 views.

"Their audience really aligns with ours," said Colleen Wormsley, public and talent relations manager at

A Change in Mission

The Team Rubicon staff, noting that their service-delivery skills would come in handy at a deli, is pretending to convert the nonprofit into a sandwich shop under a new name: Team Reubencon.

The organization’s website features a video of chief executive Jake Wood explaining why the change was made, and the staff even planted a few fake Yelp reviews of the restaurant.

"Originally, we weren’t going to make an ask for donations, but we recently launched a tornado relief operation in Sand Springs, Okla., and will be tying in a fun ask to feed a volunteer through an email newsletter," Ms. Snethen said.

Road-Rage Donations

The youth organization Kars4Kids is launching a full-scale, one-day campaign complete with broadcast advertisements. Last year, the nonprofit pulled off a stunt that twisted its usual mission by encouraging parents to trade in their children for new cars. Wendy Kirwan, director of media relations, called it "phenomenally successful" because of the attention it received on social media and in publications like Time magazine.

This year’s campaign, Beep Off, promotes a fake app that purports to solve road rage by allowing people to donate cars belonging to aggressive or hazardous drivers.

"If someone cuts you off, snap a picture of that license plate, one click, and that car is donated to Kars4Kids," Ms. Kirwan explains.

The nonprofit is running new radio and television advertisements today to encourage people to download the app. Users who try to do so will be redirected to a blog post about how to handle road rage appropriately.

Says Ms. Kirwan of her goals for the prank: "We hope to see a general increase in brand awareness."

Have you seen a nonprofit April Fools’ Day campaign? Share it in the comments below.


Editor’s note: This story was corrected after publication.’s parent company, Defy Media, will donate to

Send an e-mail to Rebecca Koenig.