It’s not often that I digress from writing about major gifts, but I had to make an exception for the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
(If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you might be living under a rock — or on an extremely extended vacation.)
In fact, I can’t ever recall a fundraising campaign going viral in this manner, or of this magnitude, before. Just this week, I watched dozens of my Facebook friends, their children, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and many others dump buckets of ice water on their heads in the name of charity.
Are there “flaws” with the campaign? Yes! …If you could call them that.
But overall, I think it is a stroke of luck, genius, and oh yeah… did I mention LUCK?
An Organic Campaign that Went Viral
The funny part is, this was not a “planned” marketing campaign. It was organic. One guy thought to do it to raise awareness for a friend, and it went viral!
There will be (and are) some flaws — and bloggers and journalists have certainly focused on them. But I’d rather focus on the positives (negatives mentioned by others below).
I’m focusing on the positives for two reasons:
- As a fundraiser at heart and consultant to charities, I am green with envy over this campaign. What I wouldn’t give to have everyone from Governor Chris Christie to Justin Timberlake (just to name a few) mentioning my favorite charity on social media! I could work a lifetime in this field and never witness that type of publicity!
- What charity wouldn’t want a windfall of unrestricted operating funds to come their way? It will be interesting to see what ALS is able to do with the extra funds.
$3 million vs. $300,000
The published number is that ALS raised over $3 million in the last few weeks compared with only a few hundred thousand dollars during this same time last year.
I would guess that the end number will be MUCH, much bigger because this campaign is still picking up steam.
- Will they put those funds in an endowment of sorts?
- Will they use them as operating?
- Will they invest in research?
I’m certain this is a hot topic in the board room right now.
The Cynics Weigh In
If you want to read about all the negatives of the campaign, William MacAskill does a pretty good job in his article, The Cold, Hard Truth About the Ice Bucket Challenge.
(Although he makes some interesting observations (who knows if they are based in reality), I think MacAskill’s just jealous that he didn’t think of the Ice Bucket Challenge first!)
One of the points he makes is about Moral Licensing, whereby you talk about charity on social media, and then have a sense that you’ve done something, so you don’t actually do anything.
While that may be true, I also believe that people who would never do anything charitable are suddenly talking about it and doing something — with their children.
And, while it’s also true that some people are treating this as a silly stunt and make no mention of ALS or have any idea what ALS is, many people are being educated and learning about ALS.
Similarly, in his article, Ice Bucket Challenge: Why You’re Not Really Helping, Ben Kosinski talks about Slacktivism, and how people substitute a post on Facebook for real charitable action.
I agree, but again, I believe that most of those individuals wouldn’t do anything anyway, and the positives greatly outweigh the negatives.
The Question of Donor Retention
The big question fundraisers everywhere are asking is how will ALS retain the donors they’ve acquired through this campaign?
At the risk of being a cynic myself, the fact is — for the most part — they won’t.
And I’m okay with that, for all the positive reasons mentioned above.
The Positives Outweigh the Negatives
This post by Roger Craver at The Agitator does an even better job of reinforcing my points. Naysayers of the Ice Bucket Challenge, beware!
Even the death of Robin Williams in the middle of this campaign couldn’t derail it. What will charities fighting depression do to mount a campaign with this kind of power and scope?
All eyes are on The ALS Association right now. What do you think?