Why the ALS “#icebucketchallenge’ is a social media and fundraising success

The ALS  Association has reportedly received $1.35 million in donations between July 29 and August 11 compared to $ 22,000 during the same period last year with the ice bucket challenge. This is quite remarkable, but first some background.

ALS is a neuro degenerative disease that causes progressive paralysis of the patient as family, friends and medicine watch helplessly. Pete Frates, a Boston College baseball player, only 29 years old was diagnosed with the disease in 2012 and challenged his friends to take the ice bucket challenge. You took the ice bucket challenge within 24 hours of being challenged by a friend and posted on social media(#icebucketchallenge). If you did not take the challenge  you needed to donate to the ALS Association to raise awareness for ALS. Whether or not you took a friend’s  social  media challenge to raise  ALS awareness, you were very likely to donate to the ALS Association.

The #icebucketchallenge has suddenly gained huge visibility with Martha Stewart and NBC host Matt Lauer doing it on TV. Ethel Kennedy 86, took the challenge and has  asked President Obama to take up the ice bucket challenge as well.

Apart from the fundraising at the ALS Association, you can be sure that the NIH, medical schools, biotech and pharma companies will all be freeze- jolted into more action to cure this dreadful, but relatively rare disease.

Non-Profit development folks must wonder about how they could gain more traction for their worthy causes. For every non-profit has a worthy cause and  rarely a “total” solution to the problem that needs funds and importantly: awareness. Here are some thoughts as to why the “#icebucketchallenge” is working.

  •  Brief discomfort- specific friends:  Although it is summer, actually it is at least briefly uncomfortable to douse yourself with ice water. You are not asking your friends for too much on Facebook and you are asking only selected friends.
  • Donations are easy: The online donation page at the ALS Association starts donations at $35 and the downloadable form starts at $ 25 if you want to mail your check.
  • The baseball connection: In 1939 Lou Gehrig abruptly retired from baseball due to the disease. In the US the disease is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Many folks are probably noticing that Pete Frates, who is ailing with the disease, is also a baseball player.

There are no better spokespeople for the cause of non-profits than the beneficiaries you help.

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