We woke up one day to watch the internet pour buckets of ice water on itself. It took us a while to figure out the story behind. In 2014, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral seemingly overnight, leaving social media managers of nonprofits scratching their heads. A multitude of celebrities have participated, including Barack Obama, Justin Bieber, Jimmy Fallon and so on.
What is it about the challenge that shook the internet?
Let’s start with the story behind. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was essentially a massive crowdfunding initiative of sorts. A Boston College alumnus and his friend, both of whom suffered ALS, are credited with coming up with the ice bucket challenge to promote awareness of their disease. The challenge urges people to either upturn a bucket of ice water on themselves or donate towards medical research. Though two major associations were in focus (The ALS Association in the US), donors could contribute to any organization of their choice.
What drove the campaign was the sense of competitiveness it created, the excitement in challenging friends and the narcissistic “coolness” of uploading a video where you’re dumping a bucket of freezing cold water on yourself (with the hashtag, of course).
The question is, was the campaign effective in actually promoting awareness about the disease? Yes, and no. While the challenge was effective in raising donations towards ALS-related medical research by 1000%, many influencers are skeptical of the authenticity of the “philanthropy” that the fundraising campaign encouraged. As it turned out, most people that performed the challenge weren’t exactly aware of the story behind it. While the gimmick went viral like no other social media challenge before (or after, so far), the cause was barely acknowledged, and did not receive the attention it deserved.
The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was an eye-opener for nonprofits around the world, especially those that regularly turn to NGO crowdfunding for their funding needs. How do you create a social crowdfunding campaign that has traction like the ALS challenge and still keeps in mind the root cause of your fundraiser?
Tips on creating a viral social crowdfunding challenge of your own
- Make sure the cause behind your gimmick is clearly communicated. Don’t let the reason you’re creating this trend or challenge fall into the risk of losing itself in the gimmick you’ve proposed.
- Find a unique and simple “hook” for your campaign. Your hook will be the element that makes your campaign fun and shareable. The hook of the ice bucket challenge was that itself; the idea of dumping a bucket of cold water over yourself.
- Provide space for easy visuals. Your idea must be easily explained and documented, by either photography or video and shouldn’t take too long either. Don’t give your audience a chance to ditch your campaign. The challenge or gimmick proposed should be as foolproof as you can make it.
- Ask a realistic amount. Especially if your organization isn’t as large or well-known as the ALS Association, propose an amount like $20 or Rs. 500. Asking too much may make your audience uneasy and drive them away.
Several nonprofits have attempted to become the “next Ice Bucket Challenge” with their social crowdfunding efforts. While some did go viral, none have managed to drive the internet as wild. We hope you meet your crowdfunding goals, despite the reach of your challenge!