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5 Reasons the Ice Bucket Challenge Raised $15 Million in 3 Weeks

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In case you haven’t been paying attention to your social media accounts, dumping a bucket of ice-cold water on your head is the “thing” to be a part of right now. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has progressed from much more than a standard fundraising campaign, becoming a viral social media sensation and raising over $15 million in the last three weeks (the fundraiser started on July 29). The inspiration was simple: Post a video to your social media accounts of you dumping a large bucket of ice water on your head, then nominate your closest friends to do the same. If they refuse, they have the option to donate $100 dollars to the ALS Association.

The result? Donations have increased from $1.7 million in 2013 to $11.4 million (and counting) in 2014, there have been 70,000 new donors, search results on the ALS foundation and Lou Gehrig’s disease have hit an all-time high, and millions of people are choosing to dump ice cold water on their heads.

Despite the success, the campaign’s been receiving some criticism from people who claim that this challenge is nothing but social media narcissism masked as altruism, and others who’ve begun to encourage people to take the “no ice bucket challenge” and donate the money. Nevertheless, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has proven to be much more than some of the lesser-known click- and-share campaign in which there’s plenty of social media activity, but not much of a financial impact. But what really caused the ALS challenge to take off? There are five key components:

1. You Don’t Want to Feel Left Out
Do you remember chain letters in elementary and middle school? You get a letter saying you have to re-write the letter and pass it on to 7 friends. If you do, you’ll meet your soul mate. If you don’t, you’ll have bad luck for 7 years. This is the same thing: you do the challenge and nominate friends. Only this time the challenge is dumping ice water on your head, the penalty is donating, and the perk is openly supporting a good cause.

2. You Feel Part of Something Bigger than Yourself
Our friends started dumping buckets of ice on their heads, and then celebrities and athletes started doing the same. It’s something we can do to show our compassion and support for a horrible illness. What’s more is that the challenge itself is funny, easy-to-make-happen, and includes a hashtag. It only makes sense that we, too, wanted to dump buckets of ice on ourselves.

3. You Can Add it to Your Timeline
Unlike the altruistic act of giving, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge gives us a way to show off in front of our friends and followers on social media. This isn’t a bad thing. If our social media platforms are used to highlight the bragging points in our life, it’s only fair to include our documented acts of kindness.

4. You Find Physical Inspiration
The fact that this campaign began, not as a marketing campaign, but as a physical dare to arouse awareness makes all the difference. It gives us a sense of community in a pretty obscure medical space. The campaign encourages more than just social sharing; it encourages us to really think about WHY we are doing it, leading to research, compassion, and dollars. In other words, if you can’t put yourself through a few moments of uncomfortable cold for ALS disease, you should donate money. That’s enough to spread the word.

5. It’s Really Easy to Take Action
We didn’t have to read a long campaign or do any research (as a matter of fact, the official ALS Association website makes it very easy for everyone to participate). We’ve had celebrities like Oprah, Justin Timberlake, Bill Gates, and Lebron James dumping ice buckets on their heads and challenging others to do the same. The call for action didn’t include jargon and a filling out a long donation card: people either took the ice bucketing dare or donated the cash.

Photo credit: Kymberly Janisch via flickr

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