If you’re online you have surely seen people pouring ice water on their heads over the last couple of weeks. It’s one of the most viral trends I have ever witnessed and that alone makes it worth talking about.
What is the #ALSicebucketchallenge
Simply put, the ice bucket challenge is a challenge where people pour a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenge three friends to do the same within 24 hours. If they don’t pour the ice water over their heads they need to donate $100 to XYZ charity. Friends of Pete Frates turned the ice bucket challenge into an ALS cause. Check out this video if you want to find out more about how it happened.
Is this slacktivism?
The challenge states that you don’t have to donate if you pour ice water over your head. That means that you’re getting OUT of donating by doing this. Because of this, and the fact that there are definitely many people who are taking part in the challenge and not donating, many have started complaining about this challenge, suggesting that this challenge was a case of slacktivism - making it seem like you’re doing something for a charity without doing anything at all.
However, it quickly became clear to me that this was more than just slacktivism because slacktivism doesn’t raise money. Since July 2014 millions of dollars have been raised for ALS. The numbers are so big and growing so fast that I can’t even keep up with them.
When I looked on Friday night ALS Canada was about to hit three million dollars in donations. On Tuesday afternoon, they were over eight million dollars. Pouring ice water on your head HAS helped - enormously.
Isn’t it a waste of water?
I admit, this argument bothers me. Especially here in Canada, we have no lack of fresh water. Do other people lack it? Yes, of course. But we can’t send the bucket of ice water to the people who need it, so, in my opinion, using it to help a different cause is a great thing to do. In places where they have less water (like California) people are being discouraged to take the challenge.
My favourite response with regards to water is from Matt Damon who I think does a great job of making serious issues fun with his organization water.org. He did the ice bucket challenge by using water from the toilets in his house. His toilet water is cleaner than a lot of drinking water is in other countries, making the clean water message come through without sounding bitter, all while doing the ALS challenge.
What made this so successful?
This is one of the most successful fundraising campaigns ever, and the reason for that is because it wasn’t started by a charity, it was started by people. People decided to do this and they challenged their friends. They combined this with something that is fun to watch (videos of people dousing themselves in ice water are funny) and easy to do (we all have access to water and ice). It’s a story, it’s personal, and it doesn’t feel like it’s driven by someone just asking for money.
I doubt this will be reproducible for ALS, but for now, they are getting more money in donations than they ever have before and if they can keep even a small percentage of their new donors engaged to give again in the future, this is a HUGE win for them.
What I would love to see is the world getting behind causes like this on a regular basis. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if influencers with as much of an audience as Mark Zuckerberg and Will Smith got behind a charity on a yearly basis? I have no idea what the next funny challenge will be or if we’ll ever see something like this again, but it has been fascinating to witness and speaks volumes about the amazing potential that the internet and social media has for doing good.
I could hardly write a post about this without doing it myself so I took the challenge on with two of my kids. We also made a donation. Here’s the video!
Your turn! Leave a comment and let me know if you’ve done the ice bucket challenge, if you’ve donated to ALS and if you think this is a worthwhile cause.