By now, you’ve likely seen the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in your news feed on Facebook or Twitter.
But, in case you’ve missed it, here’s the gist:
- Film a video of yourself getting doused with a bucket of ice water.
- Posts it on social media and then challenge three other people to do the same thing.
- If someone refuses to do the challenge, he or she is encouraged to donate to the ALS Foundation. However, many people choose to both donate and participate in the challenge.
The idea was to raise awareness and funds for ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that strips the brain’s ability to control the movement of muscles.
Certainly, this is a clever campaign to raise awareness for a debilitating disease.
However, I have to admit, I sincerely believed that this viral meme was not doing much to generate funding or awareness for ALS. I thought this was a case of “slactivism” — where it was more about getting “likes” for our own egos instead of raising awareness for this cause.
As of Tuesday, the ALS Foundation has received $22.9 million in funding in the past few weeks. That’s an 1100 percent increase over the $1.9 million in donations they received during the same period last year.
Not to mention, the foundation has added a staggering 453,210 donors to their database. As someone who used to work in non-profit marketing and fundraising, I can tell you this is a big deal.
Although the foundation won’t be able to sustain this level of giving, an increased donor database will give the ALS Foundation the ability to tap into a new crop of donors that could lead to some long-term dollars.
Why the Ice Bucket Challenge was So Effective
So, why has the Ice Bucket Challenge become such a fundraising success?
Here are five key components that created an effective campaign:
1. It wasn’t started by the ALS Association.
Although there are competing stories about its origin, the Ice Bucket Challenge was not started by the ALS Foundation. It picked up steam when friends and family of Pete Frates, a former college baseball standout with ALS, rallied behind this idea to support him.
Because people, not an organization, started this campaign it seemed more genuine and less forced. There was a mission behind the motivation and that, I believe, is part of the magic behind this campaign.
Kudos to the ALS Association for embracing that idea and adopting it as part of your efforts.
Let’s face it. Seeing the reactions of people getting doused with ice water is pretty funny.
In today’s culture of cat memes and viral videos, we want to be entertained. Although this is for a good cause, this challenge certainly gets credit for the entertainment factor.
It has built-in viral component.
The genius part of this campaign is that you are supposed to challenge three other people to participate.
It feels like the online equivalent of a “triple dog dare.” And, much like Marty McFly in Back to the Future, no one likes to be called a chicken.
If you get tagged, you feel compelled to participate and then encourage others to do the same. There is something incredibly powerful about peer pressure.
It’s simple to participate.
Sometimes, campaigns like this can be too cumbersome. If there are too many steps involved, people won’t take the time.
This challenge is something that almost everyone can do and it takes very little time. Most people have access to a bucket with water (something that we shouldn’t take lightly) and the ability to record a quick video to post online.
It has celebrity involvement.
Matt Lauer was one of the early participants in this challenge, so there was a celebrity component early on. As more celebrities got involved, they naturally tagged other celebrities to participate. That went a long way to spread the campaign.
Not only do people love to watch what celebrities do, we also like to imitate them. Participating in this challenge became the “it” thing to do.
What we Can Learn from the #IceBucketChallenge
If you work at a non-profit, you might be tempted to go out and find a way to duplicate this campaign for your cause.
I would caution you against this. Any attempt to try to replicate this for your own organization will likely fall flat.
However, the elements we discussed above are certainly valuable components to creating a campaign that spreads quickly. Keeping these key components in mind as you develop your own awareness and fundraising campaign will be helpful to coming up with your own social media awareness effort.
One Thing I Would Do Differently
But, as my friend, Marjorie Clayman, so aptly pointed out, this campaign doesn’t have a natural tie-in to ALS. Some people do a great job of talking about the disease before dousing themselves with water. But, others don’t.
It would be difficult to find a natural tie-in for ALS, but I think that’s one area where the campaign could certainly be improved. If you can find a way to do something like this in a way that has a better tie-in with your cause, I think the effort would be even more powerful.
If you can find a way to do that and combine it with the components above, you might just have a recipe for success.
So, did I take the Ice Bucket Challenge?
If you want to join in, go to the ALS Association website to donate today!
What do you think about the ice bucket challenge? Have you participated? Why or why not?
Image Credit: ucentralarkansas