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 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpwbX-kDxfs
Davidson, J. (2014, August 13). We need to do better than the ice bucket challenge. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/3107510/ice-bucket-challenge-als-we-need-to-do-better/
Ice Bucket Crowd Featured Image [Image file]. Retrieved from http://mms.businesswire.com/media/20140820005682/en/428472/5/Granite_Employees_Participating_in_the_Ice_Bucket_Challenge.jpg
Paul Bissonnette ALS Ice Bucket Challenge [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XOgsIAUpxI
Sifferlin, A. (2014, August 18). Heres how the ALS ice bucket challenge actually started. Time. Retrieved from http://time.com/3136507/als-ice-bucket-challenge-started/
Woolf, N. (2016, July 27). Remember the ice bucket challenge? It just funded an ALS breakthrough. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jul/26/ice-bucket-challenge-als-charity-gene-discovery