Are ‘national awareness days’ effective?
Charities and organizations give special names to particular days such as ‘National Children’s Day’ and ‘National Non-smoking Day’.
What are the causes of these particular days? How effective are they?
Although most people pay little heed to such things in everyday life, it does appear that there is not a day in the calendar that does not mark, commemorate, or campaign for something. Examples range from those lofty in aim – such as remembering veterans – to the absurd. The effectiveness of such days may often seem questionable, but when backed by marketing or government policy they can work in raising a cause’s profile.
Most days earmarked for celebrating the frivolous (for instance those celebrating specific foods, minority sports, etc.) receive little financial or political support and are widely ignored because only aficionados or chance-observers are aware of their existence. The consequence of this low profile is that they are seen as an amusing or casual way to enjoy a cause and perhaps gain a slightly wider audience without great expense. It is barely noticed when such days are added or removed from the calendar and overall they do no harm.
Those aiming for wider recognition and a change in public behaviour, however, fight a different battle as they are often assigned sizeable budgets. Frequently – such as in the case of Earth Day and Children’s Day – they go for many years before gaining any level of serious recognition, and even then are often ridiculed. However, in some cases campaigning pays off handsomely: concepts such as Black History Month in the US, and the internationally-marked AIDS Awareness Day, have become recognised parts of the calendar with government backing.
Not every campaign is likely to succeed, and whether to continue financially supporting failing initiatives, or to pull the plug, is undoubtedly considered carefully case-by-case (for small irreverent causes the expense is probably not large). Yet the instances when such ideas do win through is the reason that similar days continue to be added to the calendar – if it can work for one group, maybe it will work for others. Certainly capturing public and government attention is not done by silently doing nothing.