Ice Bucket Challenge

What the Social Media Success of the ALS #IceBucketChallenge Can Teach Nonprofits

Julia Claire Campbell Events, Fundraising, Marketing, Nonprofits, Online Fundraising, Social Media 27 Comments

Ice Bucket Challenge

I am sure that you’ve seen it by now – a Facebook friend posting a video as they get doused by a bucket of ice water, all in the name of raising awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

From Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to  Scott Brown to Wally the Green Monster (Red Sox mascot), people around the state, and the nation, have been stepping up to the #IceBucketChallenge.

Started by 29-year-old Peter Frates and his friend Pat Quinn, both living with ALS , the awareness and fundraising campaign has gone viral and seems poised to take over the entire Facebook News Feed.

The challenge is simple. You get tagged by someone on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and challenged to dump a bucket of ice water over your head. If you accept the challenge, you are encouraged to donate $10 to the Peter Frates #3 Fund, and you can challenge others – by tagging them on social media. If you don’t complete it, you have to donate $100 to the Fund.  A video is required as proof that you completed the challenge and needs to be posted to social media within 24 hours.

Why a bucket of ice water? Frates explains that it is symbolic and meant to serve as a “wake-up call” – to jolt people awake and make them aware about the disease and the need for more funding and research.  Even if they have never heard of ALS before, they will see these videos all over social media and their curiousity will be piqued.

The goal is to get participants to donate, of course, but also to get more people to learn about  the disease, and hear the story of the man behind the challenge.

Fox News 25 interviewed Peter Frates and his wife here:

What does this campaign have that makes it so successful and so viral?

People I know that do not normally post photos of themselves, let alone an entire video where they get soaked, are eating it up and challenging each other left and right. Yes, it’s a great cause and Peter is an inspiring spokesman, but there are many great causes out there with inspiring people leading them.

Why did this particular campaign catch on so quickly? Here are 4 reasons.

1)     Old-fashioned peer pressure.

Nothing like peer pressure! When a friend dumps a bucket of water over her head in a public forum, takes a video and then calls YOU out in front of everyone, you are going to feel pretty crappy if you don’t participate. (And people won’t let you forget that you were challenged – trust me!)

There is also something to be said about being a part of something like this – something that is bigger than you and spreading like wildfire. You want to be able to say “I remember when I did the Ice Bucket Challenge” and tell your kids (or have them dump the bucket over your head).

2)     It’s very shareable.

The #IceBucketChallenge has all the hallmarks of a piece of very shareable content.

First, it requires a video. Videos and other visuals are more likely to spread like wildfire through social channels.

Second, there isn’t a stranger asking you to participate. It is someone you know doing something unexpected, and calling out other people you know to follow suit.

Third, and let’s be honest – it makes you look good. In a public forum. By completing the Ice Bucket Challenge, and posting it online, you are showing that you are a team player and that you want to do good things for causes that matter.

Content that proves your worth and makes you feel good in such a way is eminently more shareable than content that makes you feel terrible.

3)     It’s easy to do.

It really does not require much – no training, no athletic ability, no financing, no real preparation other than a bucket of water and some ice, and someone to film.

Give people a challenge that is very easy to complete in 24 hours and they have few excuses to not participate.

The other aspect I really like about the Ice Bucket Challenge is that people of all ages can do it. It’s not dangerous, like a Polar Plunge might be to kids and the elderly. Pretty much any child can do this and have a blast!

4)     It specifically requires word of mouth.

You don’t just complete the challenge and then go about your business. You have to pick one or more people to challenge yourself – and hold them accountable for completing the challenge, and nominating others, and so on. It’s self-policing at it’s best!

No begging people to share, to tweet or to post – the word of mouth aspect is built directly into the challenge. When someone is tagged, an even wider network discovers the challenge and learns about the cause. Brilliant!

Have you been tagged in the #IceBucketChallenge?

That’s what happened to me, and even though it took me longer than the requisite 24 hours (oops), I couldn’t pass up a chance to support a cause using social media. See the video below:

Comments 27

  1. Rebecca

    Awesome that someone has picked up this challenge in America. It was started in NZ, two or three months ago, by a Mum whose child was going through Chemo. The Ice was to represent the feeling of chemo. It went completely viral here, but people were not just donating to that specific family. They donated to cancer charities and hospices – lots of charities won because of it. It is a great challenge (a bit harder to do when it is winter here in NZ).

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