Ice Bucket Challenge Pays off Big for ALS

Have you been one of the millions to do “Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS (commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease)? If you haven’t, I’m sure you  you’ve at least seen or heard about this viral grassroots marketing campaign that has exploded for a good cause.

Here’s how it works: Someone who wants to participate (or has been “challenged” via social media by a friend) simply films themselves dumping a bucket of ice water on their head. It’s reminds you of those celebratory big game moments, where the winning coach gets drenched. But in this case, it’s personal. The person getting dunked then challenges a friend or friends to do the same in the name of ALS, within 24 hours, and/or donate to the ALS cause.

The viral challenge actually kicked off a few months ago, when Pete Frates, a 29-year-old Massachusetts resident diagnosed with ALS, started posting about it on social media with his father’s help. Frates was diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease, which currently has no cure, in 2012. He is now paralyzed, eats through a feeding tube and cannot talk. The “Ice Bucket Challenge” really gained traction, however,  when 200 friends and family members of the former Boston College baseball player used it to raise awareness about his plight by all dousing themselves at once in Copley Square in Boston. It made local news and then eventually national headlines.

As of Tuesday, August 19, The ALS Association has received $22.9 million in donations compared to $1.9 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 19). These donations have come from existing donors and 453,210 new donors to The the ALS Association.

So why has this been so successful for ALS? It’s simple really — people want to do good, and this is a fun and easy was to do so. Everyone has a bucket or a large bowl and it really is an easy way to show publicly via social media that you are trying to make a difference. But what is amazing about this challenge is that the ALS Association has picked up over 450,000 new donors to date from the simple idea, and Pete Frates has proven that if nonprofits and other deserving causes “throw a creative stone” out into the social media world the ripple effect can be amazing.

According to Barbara Newhouse, President and CEO of the ALS Association, “Our top priority right now is acknowledging all the gifts made by donors to the ALS Association. We want to be the best stewards of this incredible influx of support. To do that, we need to be strategic in our decision making as to how the funds will be spent so that when people look back on this event in 10 or 20 years, the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge” will be seen as a real game-changer for ALS.”

My hope is that it will be seen as the amazing campaign that led to a cure for this terrible disease. What could be your organization or causes game changing moment? The “Ice Bucket Challenge” is proving it doesn’t have to be a complex idea that costs a lot of money to implement or promote. Sometimes the best ideas are the easiest… Like dumping water over your head.