Were you one of the thousands that dumped ice water over your head in the 2014 #ALSIceBucketChallenge? Did you know that the reason behind the trending activity was to support the ALS Association to help find a cure for the devastating Lou Gehrig’s disease? And support it did. The challenge united several thousand people from all over the nation to raise over $100 million which is 3,500% more raised during the same time period the previous year. And it all started when Pete Frates, a former Boston college baseball player was diagnosed with ALS and challenged friends, such as NFL player Tom Brady, to “strike out ALS”.
According to Smith (2014), one of the reasons the campaign was so successful was due to the idea being big, simple and selfless. He states, “Understand how to make your ideas big, selfless and simple and you will be able to control growth”. This campaign was so successful because it played on people’s egos to not only accept a challenge but to challenge someone else. It was like a game of truth or dare where everyone received a dare. And not just any dare…a “double dog dare”. And you can’t turn those down or you’ll ruin your reputation especially when celebrities were involved. Well-known celebrities made the campaign viral such as Drew Brees, Justin Timberlake, Jimmy Fallon, Mark Zuckerberg, Taylor Swift, and Martha Stewart just to name a few. The campaign was clever, funny and for a good cause.
While this movement skyrocketed organically, Skarda (2014) states that “the ALS Association has made concerted effort to educate new site visitors about the disease and their work, even allowing donors to funnel their contributions directly to research”. They made it easy for people to donate and had to make sure they were very transparent about where the money was going. This will be inspirational for philanthropies looking to change up their strategies moving forward, but it won’t be able to be replicated as is. Steel (2014) states, “Social media marketing experts said that would be close to impossible because serendipity played such a large role”.
This campaign stood out amongst other philanthropic efforts because it didn’t revolve around the primary call-to-action of donating. Far too often, people get pressured to donate money and the ALS challenge was more about participation, creativity and spreading the word in the hopes that that secondary act would be to donate. In the noisy environment of charities asking for money around the clock, Smith (2014) sums it up nicely, “This is how you get heard when everyone around you is shouting”…by dumping a bucket of ice on your head.