So the Ice Bucket Challenge has been all over the Internet over the past couple of weeks. It’s trendy, it’s fun, it’s cold, but is it doing any good? There have been a lot of critics of the Ice Bucket Challenge and all it stands for. There are a couple of reasons I think that this kind of marketing is really good for nonprofits and for people in general.
1. In the realm of viral videos, I’d rather have them promoting a good cause (e.g. finding a cure for and spreading awareness about a debilitating disease) than rewriting Frozen lyrics (and believe me guys I love parodies). I love that something like donating money is a trend. That’s awesome. Bring it on.
But people aren’t donating, you say? They are just following a trend and not paying attention? I don’t think that’s true. Several ALS associations have DRAMATICALLY increased their revenue. The ALS Association has raised 31.5 million dollars. It takes a lot of money to enable research for rare diseases like ALS, and that money is making a real difference and so is the level of awareness. ALS is in the American conversation more than ever before.
2. The Ice Bucket Challenge has been criticized for promoting slacktivisim (a lazy form of activism where you merely share an article/video rather than actually doing something). When we learned about non profit promotion in my communications classes in college, we learned a lot about ways to get an audience to act or engage in a cause. Pouring an ice bucket on your head requires more action than, say, just sharing an article or liking a status on Facebook (let’s think about Upworthy here). Pouring the ice and donating is a little more action. The more action, the more likely people are going to act again. It’s easier to convince them, at least. This can be a good and positive trend.
The Ice Bucket Challenge requires some effort and I think it models the way we should be activists. It’s like a good first step. The actual act of videoing yourself soaking yourself doesn’t do anything physical for patients. It does require a bit of pain (if your water is properly cold) and some time (especially if you fail as much as my fiancé and I did when we tried to complete the challenge). Activism requires your time and money. It can be fun. You should talk about it with others and urge them to become involved. And it’s eventually going to require sacrifice. Start with the Ice Bucket Challenge and then move on towards even more productive things (tomorrow I’m going to write about some of the fun and productive volunteering projects I’ve run across).
3. ALS (learn more from ALSA.org) is an important cause and there are so many important causes in our world. I truly believe that we have the ability to make a difference for those causes, if we could all just start acting. Maybe you don’t want to donate to ALS. Maybe you can’t afford it. Personally, ALS has been added to my future donation list, but currently I have promised my money to some other causes that are really important to me and that are getting a lot less attention than ALS. You don’t have to donate to ALS because the Internet has told you to, but donate somewhere. Give of your time, money and talents to help fix the problems you see in the world.
No one will fix the world overnight, and once you get over the idea that you can do that, you’re better off. The Ice Bucket Challenge might not find a cure for ALS (and just the act of dumping water on your head definitely won’t). Complaining about the Ice Bucket Challenge or slacktivism won’t either. If you care about the world, and you really should, then give of yourself to make it better. It will pay off.
So fight ALS. Or mental illness. Or cancer. Fight poverty. Or inequality. Or hunger. Or homelessness. Just fight for something. And don’t complain when others make steps, even small ones, towards their actions. Maybe they just dumped a bucket of ice on their head and you think that’s worthless, but it’s not. It’s a step. And encouragement is what will help them take another one.