What makes efforts like the Ice Bucket Challenge successful for nonprofits?

August 27, 2014

What makes efforts like the Ice Bucket Challenge successful for nonprofits?

The success of the ALS Association's Ice Bucket Challenge, the social media phenomenon where individuals are nominated and have to douse themselves with ice-cold water, give to the charity or, ideally, do both, is inspiring a lot of conversation. The challenge has been successful in terms of both raising awareness for ALS – amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly called Lou Gehrig's Disease – and in generating donations as well. The ALS association has raised approximately $22.9 million in less than a month, according to CBS Boston, thanks to the viral nature of the challenge and its popularity on social networks. In the same time period in 2013, the ALS Association raised about $1.9 million.

The staggering increase in overall donations and of general awareness means it's difficult to criticize the campaign. There are reservations about participants choosing to douse themselves instead of donating, which is a choice that's condoned by the ALS Association. Of course, the nonprofit would prefer to increase contributions as well as awareness, but growing at least one of these two important resources is better than none.

So how can nonprofits create a campaign along the same lines? The Nonprofit Marketing Blog highlighted a few of the components that made the effort so successful. The social nature of the challenge, both in terms of sharing on Facebook and connecting with others is obviously important. The ability to challenge others ties into this. The novelty of the challenge has also played a big part, as well as the seasonally appropriate idea of cooling one's self with a bucket of ice water. The simplicity and consistency of the challenge also make it an easily spread concept. These are all qualities that can be incorporated into other nonprofits' efforts to raise funds and awareness. While a mimic campaign may not be as big a success as the Ice Bucket Challenge, using similar techniques will improve chances for greater success.


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