The Ice Bucket Challenge Restores Faith
Among the celebrity selfies and cat videos online this year came something truly inspiring, innovative and ground-breaking: the ice bucket challenge.
Once again, social media proved just how much power it has to engage a global audience and stimulate action for a genuinely good cause. The famous ice bucket challenge raised considerable awareness and vital funds for research into Motor Neurone Disease (called ALS in the USA.)
This disease affects nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain and typically results in paralysis and a premature shortening of life. It’s a terrible disease that hugely affects the lives of many people ? not just those with Motor Neurone disease, but their loved ones who go through it with them as well.
But thanks to one brave sufferer who posted a video of himself talking about life with ALS and the need to raise funds towards developing a cure, more than ?54 million has now been donated worldwide to help find a cure. Hundreds of thousands of social media users – including handfuls of celebrities – posted their own ALS ice bucket challenge videos online.
The challenge was simple and effective. Nominees poured a bucket of ice-cold water over their head and filmed it. They then donated a sum to the charity and nominated two other people to carry out the same challenge within 24 hours or donate a larger sum to the charity. The simple and fun nature of the challenge meant that it went viral. Suddenly, users’ feeds were packed with friends, families, celebrities and other well-known people carrying out their own challenges online and raising tremendous awareness about the disease. Donations poured in from a truly global online audience.
Compare the effectiveness of this unplanned ‘campaign’ to the charity’s fundraising efforts last year. These totalled ?1.5 million ? less than a tenth of the sum raised this year through the ice bucket challenge.
The media did flag up some negatives about the campaign. As with a large number of huge viral campaigns, the tide did turn in some quarters, and there were complaints about water wastage and celebrity self-promotion. Some participants were also apparently unaware that they should donate funds to the charity after carrying out their challenge, and others were unaware of what ALS was. There were also investigations into the recipient charity and complaints that their directors earned large salaries.
However, negativity is almost inevitable with online action of this magnitude. In fact, negative PR actually worked to further raise awareness and engagement with the challenge. What’s more, the huge scale of the response has helped those struggling with Motor Neurone Disease to feel as though they are supported, appreciated and valued.
The fact is that the general public are often hugely generous when it comes to charity donations, and this generosity vastly outweighs any potential negatives from those who choose to throw a bucket of icy water over themselves and forget to send their donation. The recipient ALS charity has been astounded and delighted by the respond and explained that it represents a vast increase on anything they previously attained in terms of fundraising. It will provide a huge financial boost for their work in research and family support for those affected.
Additionally, charities which deal with diseases such as Motor Neurone Disease are very important for care and residential homes, where residents often suffer from these conditions. They are very grateful for any support or donations that the public is generous enough to extend to them.