Nonprofit Organizations and Social Media

Nonprofit Organizations and Social Media

Social media and other online platforms are a valuable resource for nonprofit organizations. Social media is a cheap, yet effective, way to reach out to a wide variety of potential supporters and donors to your cause.

Thinking about this topic and trying to decide what angle to take on it, I tried to think of a nonprofit organization or cause that I would not be aware of without social media. It didn’t take long before I was taken back a couple years and the sudden rush of ice cold water pouring over my head sparked in my memory, the ALS ice bucket challenge.

The ALS ice bucket challenge was a social media phenomenon that went viral back in the summer of 2014. The challenge raised more than $100-million in a 30-day period for the ALS Association. Athletes, celebrities, musicians, politicians all got in on the act. My personal favourite video was NHL-Twitter sensation Paul Bissonnette’s ALS ice bucket challenge video.

The challenge originally had nothing to do with ALS. A Florida golfer, Chris Kennedy, was nominated by a friend to participate in the ice bucket challenge, where those who participated in dumping the ice water over their head would donate in the name of a charity of their choice. Kennedy chose to bring awareness to ALS and it soon exploded across the globe.

Many critics of the campaign called it slacktivism (lacking real-world impact) and doubted this trending campaign would actually do anything other than make for entertainment on our social media feeds. Time called it, “problematic in almost every way” adding, “most of its participants… didn’t mention the disease at all.”

Well, maybe this campaign was successful after all. When you go to the ALS Associations official website, you will find a short video describing the impact that fundraising – primarily from the ALS ice bucket challenge – had in the discovery a new ALS gene.

Although the ice bucket challenge was not originally intended to be associated with the ALS Association, this nonprofit organization was able to gain a significant amount of free publicity from this viral sensation. NPOs utilizing this type of campaigning online might find it difficult to recreate, however, if it is successfully executed, the benefits for your organization could be remarkable.


Breaking research news: Ice Bucket donations help identify new ALS gene! [Video file]. Retrieved from

Davidson, J. (2014, August 13). We need to do better than the ice bucket challenge. Time. Retrieved from

Ice Bucket Crowd Featured Image [Image file]. Retrieved from

Paul Bissonnette ALS Ice Bucket Challenge [Video file]. Retrieved from

Sifferlin, A. (2014, August 18). Heres how the ALS ice bucket challenge actually started. Time. Retrieved from

Woolf, N. (2016, July 27). Remember the ice bucket challenge? It just funded an ALS breakthrough. The Guardian. Retrieved from


2 thoughts on “Nonprofit Organizations and Social Media

  1. My church youth group in Westlock participated in the ice bucket challenge. We were challenged by another church’s youth group and then passed it on to one in Edmonton. It was such an interesting experience, because it encouraged us to become more aware of ALS.

    I think that using social media can be tricky because it’s difficult to know when something will become viral or not. The ice bucket challenge was one thing that went viral. Not just among the ‘average’ person but it also spread through to celebrities including Chris Pratt, Oprah, and Lady Gaga. The benefit of such a new technology is that things are well, new. This means that there is innovative ground to expand into, as well as different ways to reincorporate some older promotional ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the Ice Bucket challenge was successful because doing something visible obviously increases virality, and the fact that the purpose of the challenge struck an emotional chord also helped. I was working and volunteering in India when the challenge initially went viral and I was surprised that people were actually aware and donating towards the cause, considering that most people are ignorant towards non profits there. In the end I think social media is great for non profits as long as they can grab attention and strike a chord with people.

    Liked by 1 person

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