It pains me to read the many articles circulating on the Internet right now about how evil the ice bucket challenge is. These articles claim ALS is stealing money from other organizations because it’s attracting too much attention (and funds) to one singular cause.  

Wow. Really? Is it jealousy?

If anything, this social media philanthropic phenomenon should illustrate that even the least sexy causes out there can catch a break once in this lifetime.

Our company has worked with a number of wonderful charities over the years. Of all the briefings I received from clients to help us prepare for a project, few have touched me so profoundly as the one I received when meeting with ALS Quebec to discuss their new website. To learn about the deteriorating effects of the disease and how little is known about its cause or about finding a cure was both a saddening and motivating reason to accept the mandate.

I was recently asked by a local radio station why the ice bucket challenge is so successful. A few factors come into play:

  1. Originality : it’s never been done before
  2. Everyone in North America at least has access to a bucket water ice and a human being
  3. The financial contributions were clearly defined from the onset: either donate $10 if you do the challenge or $100 dollars if you decline
  4. It benefits local charities not just the big ones
  5. It leverages peer-to-peer relationships
  6. It’s a relatively easy task to perform, only taking a few minutes to prepare for and a few minutes to execute
  7. It came from the people not from a charity, making it more authentic

The success of the campaign comes at a time when social media can be a non-profit’s best friend. However, not enough organizations know how to leverage the tool.

No marketing or communications expert could ever have cooked up a similar phenomena, it has to happen on its own naturally. That’s what makes it so perfect: it started off with good intentions and other kind people saw the opportunity to keep the good going both by raising awareness and raising money.

How people can say that it’s not fair that ALS is getting all this attention is beyond me. If anything this initiative should show the world that together we can make a difference.

This initiative should also show non-profits that they need to pay attention to the conversations happening online and be ready to react at a moments notice.

We often talk about crisis management with charities but has anyone really prepared charities for unexpected phenomenal success?

It can be just as disorienting.

I challenge non-profits everywhere to think about how they would react, and benefit, if this happened to them.

I hope it will.

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Kim Fuller is Founder and Creative Director of Phil Communications. A certified non-profit consultant and marketing specialist, Kim has been active in marketing, graphic design and internet technologies in the philanthropic sector for 20 years. 

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See Phil’s Ice Bucket Challenge here!