Blog: Social Innovation
Somewhere alongside the Harlem Shake and Kim Kardashian, ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge became one of the most memorable memes of the past several years. Seventeen million of us voluntarily doused ourselves with freezing water on camera to raise funds for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, producing more than $115 million in less than two months.
We recently learned that funding from the Ice Bucket Challenge spurred a discovery that may help develop therapies that will treat ALS.
Everyone marveled at the campaign’s success, and many tried to duplicate it, but fundraising-by-meme comes with its own set of challenges. Throughout the very nuanced and noisy conversation about its now-signature program, ALS Association has communicated with transparency and foresight.
So just how did the nonprofit manage to overcome the “Ice Bucket Challenge” challenge? By following these rules of thumb, ALS Association – and other organizations like it – can navigate the aftermath of a social media sensation.
A meme on par with the popularity of the Ice Bucket Challenge will also no doubt generate useful data and commentary from high-visibility participants. In the hands of a savvy communicator, today’s data points and influencer shout-outs can go on to become tomorrow’s insights and brand advocate partners.
So as the global health landscape continues its struggle to secure institutional funding for challenges like Ebola and Zika (as well as communicate awareness and treatment), you can expect the backlash against fundraising fads to continue. Maybe in a utopia that ignores temperamental human motivation, research funding dollars would be neatly allocated to diseases according to the number of people affected or lives that can be saved. In the meantime, it’s easy to see how your organization can benefit from following ALS Association’s example. You might also look out for the next social impact meme and take note if its legacy is as lasting (not to mention as wet and cold) as the Ice Bucket Challenge.