It gets me thinking about the ice water challenge for ALS that is going around online. If you haven’t seen this done before, you get nominated by someone to dump a bucket of ice water over your head. You’re supposed to do it within 24 hours or make a donation to an ALS-related charity. If you take the challenge, you are then supposed to nominate others to do it. It is all done in honor of a former Boston College baseball player who was diagnosed in his 20s with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
This viral phenomenon has been going around for the better part of the summer. From the non-profit marketing perspective, it’s great. The awareness being raised for ALS is huge and the conversion from unengaged to engaged on the matter is gigantic. It’s no cost to the charity and the tag-you’re-it means of connecting with others leads to endless possibilities for introducing the message to new constituents.
But, I also look at it from the perspective of someone who works in fundraising strategy and see people dumping pails of water over their heads instead of making donations. I would be interested to see how many people have taken this challenge and made a donation. My guess it would be less than your average direct mail campaign.
I think a lot about how to advance a cause and raise money. While I marvel at the response that this challenge has seen, there is no lasting impact here. You dump a bucket of water on your head, you post a video and you move on with life. Does it equal dollars? The dollars that support services and research? The ALS Association made $168,000 last week. That’s about 1000% more than they made a year before, yet still a drop in the bucket for a national charity. Do you know why you dumped a bucket of water on your head? Do you even know what ALS is? Can you even spell amyotrophic lateral sclerosis? (I can’t. I thought there was an “i” instead of a “y” in the first word.)
So, what am I getting at? Dumping water over your head is nice, but if you really want to defeat a disease or help a charity, you need to invest. Invest your time as a volunteer. Invest your brain in learning about the cause. Invest your money as a donor. Invest your voice as an advocate.
Otherwise, you just need a towel and a change of clothes.