Examining the Success and Failure of the Ice Bucket Challenge

Much has been said about the Ice Bucket Challenge this summer. The campaign has certainly been a viral hit, but has it truly raised awareness for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), the neurodegenerative disorder known more commonly as Lou Gehrig’s disease?

Originally, the Ice Bucket Challenge had nothing to do with ALS until a golfer in Sarasota, FL was challenged by a friend to participate in July. At that time participants would select a charity of their choice for donations and Chris Kennedy used the opportunity to select ALS.

The campaign really took off once celebrities became involved in August. Nominated by Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook, Bill Gates completed the challenge in dramatic fashion by adding some engineering into his feat.

Volume of Conversation for the Ice Bucket Challenge on Twitter

Generating Awareness

So, has the Ice Bucket Challenge raised awareness for ALS? In looking at the volume of conversation, from July 1 – August 31, 2014 the Ice Bucket Challenge has generated 15.5 million mentions on Twitter (Source: Sysomos). The peak came in mid-August when more than 2 million mentions occurred on August 20, 2014.

Any brand would be thrilled with the amount of conversation and reach generated by such a campaign, not to mention the additional value as it was highlighted on major media outlets.

But are mentions equivalent to awareness? Looking at the Buzz Graph on the right (Source: Sysomos) you will see that ALS isn’t even part of the conversation.

In fact less than 20% of the 15.5 million tweets make mention of ALS, just 2.9 million in total.

Bill Dwyre, sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times, challenged the notion of raising awareness when he said, “the Ice Bucket Challenge is promoted as ‘raising awareness.’ There could be no greater awareness than Lou Gehrig.”

75 years later, Lou Gehrig’s farewell speech at Yankee Stadium still resonates with baseball fans and reminds us that the deadly disease can affect anyone.

Just how many millennials know whom Lou Gehrig is, let alone are aware of the heart-wrenching “I’m the luckiest man on the face of the Earth” speech?

For a disease that has been so closely tied with Gehrig over the years, the Ice Bucket Challenge may have exposed a whole new audience to its deadly effects. But it is difficult to ignore that a majority of the conversation is about the action, and not about the cause.

I would have appreciated the campaign much more if there was an educational component to the conversation. As it is, ALSA relies on each individual to do additional research about the disease and inform themselves about getting involved going forward.

Wired did attempt to examine how long it would take for the entire world to take the Ice Bucket Challenge. It would be a much more interesting exercise to determine what event reached more people – two months of the Ice Bucket Challenge or the 75 years since Lou Gehrig’s speech. Perhaps Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight can tackle the statistical analysis?

Donations to the ALS Association

2012 Consolidated Financial Summary for ALSA and Chapters

Besides measuring awareness and reach, we can examine the success of the campaign by its effects on donations to ALSA.

As of September 3, 2014 the ALS Association has received more than $107 million in Ice Bucket Challenge donations. Comparing the results to the previous year, the Association received just about $2.8 million in donations in the same time period. (July 29 – August 29, 2013)

Without a doubt this is an incredible success story for the Association as well as those fighting the disease. But as donations grew, so did the public’s interest in where the donations were applied.

According to ALSA’s 2012 Annual Report just 7.71% of the combined revenue was used to fund research.

That number has many asking questions. In fact ALSA says those numbers are misleading and has been actively communicating that the national office spent 28% of its operating budget on research—or $7.2 million.

Looking at the numbers in their 2014 Annual Report the Association allocated $7.2 million towards research, $1.9 million towards administration fees, and $3.6 million towards fundraising. So for every $1.00 spent in fundraising and administration the ALSA received $1.31 in return. Is that a good return on their investment?

Some have also argued that success for ALSA comes at a cost, as the Ice Bucket Challenge will cannibalize donations to other charities. Others have argued against that thinking. I am sure some cannibalization will occur. But the question we should ask is how many of those people never, or rarely, donate to a cause? The challenge may actually have a positive net effect on charitable giving, at least for a short period of time.

The Effect on Public Relations

ALSA has also made a few mistakes along the way. Their biggest may have been the lack of preparedness. When working with brands and organizations I always prepare them for the best and worst of times. The Association should have asked what would happen if the Ice Bucket Challenge did reach millions of people.

Ice Bucket Challenge and the Waste of Clean Water

As part of that exercise I would have encouraged the Association to think about the response to the use of water in the campaign.

Nationally you have states like California that continue to deal with a drought. Across the world you have many people that do not have access to clean water.

In fact, nearly ONE BILLION people live without clean drinking water. Diseases from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation kill more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.

ALSA could have considered partnering with an organization that brings clean water to developing countries. As an alternative, the Association could share a portion of all donations with a clean water charity.

Joseph Stromberg at Vox has demonstrated that the water used, or wasted, in the Ice Bucket Challenge pales in comparison to the water used to we use to produce food.

Can You Trademark a Viral Campaign?

During the campaign the ALSA also attempted to trademark the Ice Bucket Challenge. It was met with public scrutiny and they eventually withdrew the application. But they could have avoided such a snafu by acknowledging the origins of the Ice Bucket Challenge, realizing that they didn’t own the action or the campaign – they’ve simply benefited most by it.

“The ALS Association filed for these trademarks in good faith as a measure to protect the Ice Bucket Challenge from misuse after consulting with the families who initiated the challenge this summer. However, we understand the public’s concern and are withdrawing the trademark applications. We appreciate the generosity and enthusiasm of everyone who has taken the challenge and donated to ALS charities.”

Lessons Learned

The Ice Bucket Challenge will be used as a case study for non-profit organizations for the foreseeable future. It has successfully demonstrated how brands and organizations can tap into the power of social media to share and amplify their mission and message.

The ALS Association should be credited for their active and transparent communication. Since the Ice Bucket Challenge has gone viral they have seen an incredible increase in donations. They have been challenged to communicate exactly how those dollars will be allocated in 2014 and they’ve responded favorably by adding FAQs to their site and actively sharing the information on social media channels.

And as I’ve demonstrated here, there are always two sides to every story. So was the Ice Bucket Challenge a success or failure? I guess it depends on your definition of success.

I can’t help but question the lasting effect of the campaign. Will the ALS Association be able to sustain the success of their viral hit in 2015 and beyond? The simple, and obvious, answer is no. Has the Ice Bucket Challenge truly raised awareness for the disease or have they simply tapped into a cultural moment where lifecasting dominates the social web?

Before you judge the Ice Bucket Challenge I challenge you to read this post from a family affected by ALS. The post from Bo Stern does a great job demonstrating the effects of the disease. It would have been great to see ALSA humanize the campaign this way.

Will the $100 million plus in donations significantly alter the organization going forward? And ultimately, will the donations drive the research to help us find a cure for Lou Gehrig’s disease? That is the most important question to ask, and the real measure of success.

Do you think the Ice Bucket Challenge has been a success or failure? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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  1. Answering the question if the Ice Bucket Challenge was a success or a failure, I would say it was definitely a success. Although I had negative opinions of it at first, the fact that the association raised over 100 million dollars because of it is amazing. When people see a big trend like the Ice Bucket Challenge, they want to know “why?” What kind of disease allows for people to be throwing ice water over their heads? This is how people raise awareness. Once someone is aware of something so big, he or she wants to be apart of it. Lately, I have seen people who dump ice water on their heads to raise awareness, make sure they discuss the importance of donating as well.

    I don’t think the ALSA every imagined this trend becoming so popular, so I see how they were not as well prepared from a public relations view. When something this popular hits social media, you can expect it to grow and grow and grow. This article does however state that they’ve been in good communication with the public as to where the money donated is going. I think that’s great! Unfortunately, when something becomes so popular, you have to expect there will be some negativity. The meme used in the article of a little boy trying to imagine people dumping clean, cold water on their heads in order to avoid donating really hits you hard. It gives you another perspective and I think the association could have better prepared for that kind of backlash.

    • Kassie –

      Thanks for the thoughts, and you do draw attention to an important fact. People have been more educational with their challenge posts, sharing more information about ALS as well as the reason to donate. I still think ALSA could have facilitated that sharing of information, but it is nice to see so many people do the research and share on their own.


    • Sheldon –

      Thanks for stopping by to comment and share the link to Sysomos’ published data. I’ll definitely share it with the class and add a link here.

      Always a fan of the platform, hope to get the students access again for their social strategy development this semester.


  2. You brought up quite a few things that I had never thought of throughout the popularity of this viral campaign. For instance, I didn’t realize that there had been a number of “missteps” on the part of the ALS Association as they navigated the massive explosion of popularity in Ice Bucket Challenge videos recently. You brought up good points when pointing out how these could have been avoided.

    I also found it interesting reading about the difference between mentions and awareness. It’s a valid point that I think many people tend to confuse. I think a lot of people watched these videos, but probably never bothered to look up what ALS actually was. Or maybe they looked up what it stood for, but don’t know anything about the disease beyond that. However, as you pointed out later on, the fact that they’ve experienced such a radical increase in donations is outstanding and proves that the Ice Bucket Challenge is a success after all.

    • Thanks Marisa –

      You’ve definitely picked out one of the points that I think is very important to consider. Did the challenge raise true awareness? Donations are up, but is understanding of the cause?

  3. This blog post has definitely brought up some points that I have not really given thought to before. I always thought that this cause definitely raised awareness because so many people have done the challenge. But you brought up the point that just doing the challenge does not mean that someone has actually researched what ALS is and what happens to people with it. I do think that the challenge certainly has raised awareness, though, because so many people do actually know more about ALS. Informative videos of people with ALS have gone viral because of the challenge.
    As far as success or failure, I think that the Ice Bucket Challenge is a success. It has raised over $100 million over the last couple of months, which can do so much for the organization. There are some criticisms of the challenge, but I think how much money it raised alone makes it difficult to say it has been a failure.
    Lastly, I just wanted to comment about the idea of partnering with an organization that brings water to nations in need. I think that this is a great idea; however, I am not sure what the response would be if people thought that their donations were going to another organization, even if it is a good one. Some people can get very particular about donating to a specific cause, and may become upset if they donated to ALS and some money was going to other organizations.

  4. This is a very interesting post on the ice bucket challenge, and it raises a lot of valid points. Your point about whether or not ALSA will be able to sustain the campaign and keep their success really got me thinking. I am curious to see how they are going to take the success and vast increase in monetary donations, as well as overall increased awareness, and manage to keep their presence relevant. When you think about it, the challenge has been going on for a couple months now…how many more videos are going to be posted? Probably not many. Just like every social media fad, it will eventually reach it’s expiration date and slowly fade away. What will ALSA do then?

    I am also glad you brought up the issue of the drought in California and the wasting of clean water when many people don’t even have access to that. I wish the challenge could have been implemented with a renewable resource instead.

  5. Dennis,

    I think the ice bucket challenge has been a success. ALSA has raised so much awareness and donations that wouldn’t have happened without the popularity of the challenge. Even though there are still those people who did the challenge and still have no idea what ALS is, it helped with the trending. ALSA has a special place in my heart because it has affected someone close to me. I am just so happy to see people do the challenge and see people donate money. It is for a great cause.

    ALS is such a horrible disease that needs to be put to an end. I don’t know if you saw this video or not but this man will change the way you look at the ice bucket challenges. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/20/anthony-carbajal-ice-bucket-challenge-als_n_5696085.html

    • Thanks Kathryn, and good point about carrying the message and sharing it with others – even if the participants didn’t fully educate themselves on the cause. There is something to be said for the need to have that happen for a campaign to go viral. And thanks for sharing the link / video. Powerful story.

  6. As a good professor you expertly raised questions but averted from your own opinion. I hope to find out more on your thoughts regarding success or failure, I think you bring up some very interesting points to both sides here and leave the audience with some important considerations.

    I think one aspect of the conversation that has been missing is the global reach of the Ice Bucket Challenge. The previous comment with a link to additional Sysomos data was fascinating with the United States driving 49% of the conversation. While the US was the majority single driver of the conversation half of the Ice Bucket conversation is occurring around the globe. In order to transcend continents so effectively I would argue that the Ice Bucket challenge was extremely successful. It is not easy to have a global reach without adaption but the simplicity of the challenge lead to success. I talk more about the simplicity and why I thought it was a success on my blog: http://goo.gl/ae9lNA.

    • Tyler, thanks for calling me out! 🙂

      We’ll definitely chat more about the Ice Bucket Challenge in class. And great job checking out the link from Sheldon and Sysomos. It’s amazing to think about the true reach of the campaign.

  7. Hello Dennis,

    I found it shocking when you said, “less than 20% of the 15.5 million tweets make mention of ALS.” Shouldn’t the challenge be about promoting the cause and not just doing the latest social media trend?

    I think more people should research the Ice Bucket Challenge before they create the video. During the video they could talk about what ALS is and spread true awareness that way.

    I also covered the same topic and you can check it out at http://jacquelinekocken.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/icebucketchallenge-success

    Thanks for sharing,

  8. I couldn’t agree more with your paragraph about the effect on public relations. What other way could they have prevented the use of so much water. I can imagine how much water was lost during this time. Although, it would have been interesting to see what other things, besides water, that could have been used. I also find it interesting that in 2014, you don’t have spend millions of dollars on an advertisement when you can leave it up to the people and social media to spread the word. In fact, many companies probably spend money on celebrities being in their advertisement when here, celebrities were nominated by fans and donated money they make. Now the new question will be, how can ALS continue to bring in this much money? Will it be a yearly or bi-yearly thing? What will be their new strategy for years to come?


    • Lo – Great point on spend. It is very true that you can use the power of digital and social media channels to share a message at a fraction of the cost of traditional media, and if designed right you can reach even more people. I’m just as interested to see if the challenge continues, or they find a way to pivot on the idea and make it just as exciting going forward.

      If I were ALS, I’d consider using the challenge as a way to nominate other charities for donations or something like that to bring the campaign to a close.

  9. Dennis,

    It was really interesting to read your post! You certainly raised a number of really great points. Personally, I think that the Ice Bucket Challenge has been a success. The number of people who have been reached as well as the amount of money that has been raised is absolutely incredible…how can anybody argue with that? I think the most interesting thing is that even when people forget to mention anything about ALS or call it the wrong name in their posts or videos…I automatically know what they are talking about…I think that says quite about using social media to send a message. I actually talked about a lot of what you said in my blog post: http://ciaranncollins.wordpress.com/

    I think that whether people see the challenge as a way to post a fun video for their friends to see or truly want to raise awareness and help donate to the cause is all very personal. People are going to donate if they want to donate or not donate if they do not want to donate. But, the fact is that for every one person who does not actually care about the cause, there is one person that truly does. And that person that does care can be nominated by that other person that does not care about the cause which is why it is such an incredible cycle. I think that is what is important.


    • Ciara, thanks for the comments. Great points about spreading the word … even if you don’t donate. There truly is a need for all people to participate to share the message and reach people who do care.

  10. Before ALS became a house hold name because of the ice bucket challenge, I’m sure they were spending a lot of time and money fundraising because this was their primary source of donations. But since the ALS challenge, this has probably dropped. With some many people donating because of the Ice Bucket Challenge, a need to raise funds through events or programs will slow down.

    A great website that lays this out for every charity is called Charity Navigator.
    For example, Susan G. Komen for the Cure spends a lot of money on program expenses, which can be a problem if they are spending above their means.

    I would check it out, it’s cool to see “where the money goes” so to speak.

    • Thanks Kelly. Charity Navigator is a great resource to learn more about the organizations and something I always reference when considering a donation. Glad you shared your thoughts about it here.

  11. I appreciate the research you put into this post. It helped me understand not only where the challenge really started out but I think it puts things into perspective as to what you can expect from a campaign like this for your own references in the future.

  12. Hi Dennis,

    Thought it was quite interesting we both shared some of the same sources. Before I even wrote my post, I had those articles and sites marked on the side. Great minds think alike.

    I like how you brought up the question if mentions connects with awareness. I thought about that a great amount when this thing really started to catch on. No, I don’t mean the first couple of days when people self-titled themselves as leaders of this movement. I mean that week or two span when you couldn’t hear someone talk about it at work, on the bus, on the streets or even worse, you couldn’t even scroll through your Facebook without these videos bombarding you. In reality, how many of these people know more about ALS? Do they actually know ALS and Lou Gehrig’s disease is one in the same? Do they know ALS’s effects on the body?

    Overall I agree with most of your talking points on society not even connecting ALS and the ice bucket challenge. I guess it goes to show more about the day and age we live in than some people grabbing a bucket, filling it with water, dumping a tray of ice in and sharing their recording on Facebook to seem “cool.”

    • Phil –

      Much like yourself, I was collecting the links for awhile. Time should, and will, reveal much more about awareness as well as its effect on the organization and the disease. As a trending topic, and event, there is no doubt in my mind that a majority of participants will forget all about ALS. But I am curious what percentage will connect with ALSA more often because of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

      Perhaps the 20% number I quoted in my Sysomos research is an indication of the potential new audience for ALSA to connect with going forward. At that rate, not a bad increase in donors and potential local volunteers.


  13. I think the Ice Bucket Challenge has done an incredibly job raising awareness about Lou Gehrig’s disease and the importance of the millennial generation. I think my generation is stuck in this rut, that because we are all not yet in careers with a comfortable amount of money to donate, that we can’t at least donate some money to a good cause.
    But that brings me to the point of whether or not this is really a good cause. Judging by what you’ve written about where the money is actually going, and how such a small percentage is actually going to research, seems really (for lack of a better word) sketchy. In this case, when a large amount of people have promoted your organization, I think it’s important to be as transparent as possible, and I also believe more money should go to research. People are led to believe they are donating to the research section of this organization, but I still wonder, where is my money actually going?
    Other than my complaint of where the money is going, I also feel almost blind sided that I didn’t know ALS Foundation tested on embryonic stem cells. Therefore, I think complete transparency is extremely important when your company or organization has gained so much attention.

    • Thanks for the comments Kacey. I do think ALSA is trying to be transparent, it just took them awhile to get there. I would like to know if more money will go to research this year, considering the large sums of money they have received. And you do make a good point about embryonic stem cell research. It is a polarizing issue, and one that is important to consider for people of faith.

  14. Dennis,
    The question of whether the Ice Bucket Challenge was a success of failure I think can be looked at in two different ways. On a personal level and on a statistical level. On a statistical level, I would say that no this wasn’t a failure. Especially when looking at the facts you brought forth in this post from Sysomos. I looked through Sysomos for a bit and I think by far that the amount and depth of stats created show that there is not doubt about the financial success of this campaign. However, looking at this on a personal level, I think that its all about personal perceptions about the issue. People who are more closely related to the disease obviously will have a different view than someone who is an active member of social media.

    You and I covered some similar topics in our posts but I was intrigued on one specific aspect you brought to the table that myself and my classmates I don’t think would have recognized on our own. The topic of Public Relations and the setbacks that this campaign had created along the way. The partnership idea in relationship with droughts in California was not only a unique thought but a very important one that is definitely overlooked. Reading through this section of your post showed me that I need to not only research my topics to the nth degree but research them with an outside of the box point of view.

    If you could look at my post and give me some insights on what I could do better or more in depth that would be AWESOME. http://daniellelizabethstory.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/the-reality-of-als-and-the-icebucketchallenge/

    One more thing…. thank you for nominating our class. I know that many of were dreading this project but in the end we made a difference. I’m curious to see who donated after the water dumping and if those who we nominated took part in the challenge. Hopefully we can talk about it in class and take a quick poll to see how much of an impact we’ve made!

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Danielle. I’m very happy to hear the post made you think about the challenge from a few different angles. It’s a great exercise and something to retain once you get out there in the working world.

      And I’m also glad to hear that you enjoyed the challenge. Should make for a fun conversation in class today.


  15. I believe the ALS ice bucket challenge was an extreme success! Regardless if people donated money towards the organization or not, it still got so many people all over the world to spread awareness and got people talking and discussing about the issue at hand which in the end definitely did lead to more donations prior to the ice bucket challenge going viral. I strongly believe it is a great cause and I even did the ice bucket challenge twice! #ADPR4300

  16. All very interesting thoughts on the Ice Bucket Challenge. I agree with you that the association should have thought about how this campaign would look if it went viral and the idea of donating some of the proceeds to a clean water foundation is excellent.

    I do not think that ALS will be able to replicate a campaign of this size again and it saddens me to see all the challenge videos dwindling from my facebook wall. However, in the end I believe the awareness and money that this challenged raised is outstanding.

  17. One thing I really enjoy that your brought up in this post is the negative comments that this campaign is receiving. Considering the negative views some people and locations across the globe might have on this challenge. Things like California continuing to be in a somewhat continuous draught and the fact that over one billion human beings have no clean water to begin with, let alone the availability to cold clean water, make you wonder is there a different type of campaign other than the #IceBucketChallenge that could have been done?

    You can read my thoughts on the fast reaching capabilities of social media via the #IceBucketChallenge here: http://swobodk.wordpress.com/

  18. I think you covered points in the ALS Challenge that many people over looked or just don’t talk about.
    I’m glad you discussed the water wasting point because I know it was something that created a lot of buzz on social media. I know a handful of people who refused to participate in the challenge because of that. This is the first time I’ve seen any study or anyone talk about that feedback, so I thought that was great. I definitely feel that ALSA was unprepared for the media coverage and should have handled it better, but overall I think that it was a tremendous success. While not everyone participating in the challenge may not look into ALS or donate, there has been more talk and research on the disease. A majority of participants I know have researched ALS and shared their newfound information with family and friends which I think would never had happened without the challenge. As for whether this can happen with another organization, while something specifically like this might not happen again, the power of social media and viral videos has no limit and can definitely inspire a new creative campaign.

  19. Dennis,

    Interesting take here on the Ice Bucket Challenge. I actually wrote about the good it has done. While some people may feel that it is just done to get “Facebook likes,” I think that anyone who has done is at least somewhat more aware of this terrible disease. Reading articles from those who have ALS or know someone with ALS really brings to light the good that it has done. They talk about how the shock of having ice water dumped on them can lock someones feeling in their body up, just as ALS does.

    One of my roommates works in the marketing department at the ALS Foundation here in Milwaukee. He talks about how everyone in the department is excited about how much awareness the Ice Bucket Challenge has brought to this disease. $110.5 million has already been raised as of today, and they can’t begin to talk about how awesome this awareness campaign has been. Every donation, big or small, counts for something to help fight this disease.

    • PJ –

      Great comment. I’d be curious to hear more about how the local chapter has been affected. Have they seen an increase in donations locally? Have they seen increased interest / participation?

      Thanks for sharing,

  20. No doubt has the Ice Bucket Challenge raised awareness for ALS. Many people had no idea what the acronym even stood for before this summer. $100 million donated to the ALSA Foundation is no easy task and that is certainly due to the challenge. Sure, the Foundation did make some mistakes, but we are talking about a foundation that has never seen this much press in its entire existence, I think it is fair to cut them some slack because nobody’s perfect.
    However, I do agree that there was lack of information on the illness itself. Many posts, like you stated, only mentioned “#IceBucketChallenge” and nominated three people. The foundation could have fixed this by perhaps commenting on people’s videos with links to their website and how to donate.
    An example post would look something like this:
    “Thanks for helping us raise awareness for ALS! Our website will tell you all about the disease and is also where you can donate if you don’t want to pour an ice cold bucket of water on your head! Click to find out more! http://www.alsa.org
    The ideal situation would have had everybody posting the link to the ALS Foundation’s website and having everyone donate and pour ice water on their heads. But life isn’t perfect and neither was this campaign. But overall, this is one of the biggest success stories in non-profit history. I worked for a non-profit so I understand how hard it is to raise awareness for a cause with little to no funds. This was a grand slam for ALS.

    • Meredith, thanks for the comments. With millions of videos, that may have been quite the undertaking for ALSA to complete. But a nice approach for at least some videos and social conversation.

  21. I am glad that you included the controversy over the waste of water that the ALS bucket challenge has been accused of causing. While I do not think that enough water was wasted on this cause for it to have been as large of a controversy as it became I do think it is something that is important to discuss. By aiding one cause was the ALS challenge hurting another? There are so many people struggling in the world that I think it is important in any communications position to be aware of your perception within all audiences. People who feel very strongly about water conservation definitely viewed this challenge differently than those who are directly effected by ALS.

  22. I think the Ice Bucket Challenge was a success for the ALSA.

    However, I’m more interested to see what this does for other charities, rather than if the ALSA can keep up the momentum. I feel like the attention given to the Ice Bucket Challenge will lead to a backlash for any other charity attempting a viral campaign. There will be a whole lot of “we’ve seen this” and “been there, done that.” People will assume that donating to ALSA fulfills their quota for random donations. Here I’m assuming a lot of the people donating probably don’t give money to other organizations.

    It’s a good thing for ALS and those who suffer from it, but there’s not much of the market share left for other charities. The next big thing (if there is one) will have to be totally different.

  23. Dennis –

    First and foremost, thank you for getting deeper into the true start of the #IceBucketChallenge. While I knew that it was not started by the ALSA, I didn’t know the exact history of it. I also really appreciated you putting some numbers and statistics in your post. I think it is a commonly known number that around 100 million dollars have been raised. The number of hashtags and which hashtags are being used, is a statistic with a lot of a value that I did not know before.

    As a public relations major, I also thought long and hard about the implications of ‘wasting’ all that water. Since the ALSA did not start this campaign, the surely did not anticipate the backlash of the people worried about water conservation. Even Kacie, in our class, mentioned that it is illegal to do the challenge in California due to the drought – and that is way less severe of a situation than the developing countries that simply have no clean water.

    All of that being said, when you weigh the pros and cons and even the set backs of this challenge, it was an overall success! When you get a chance, check out my take on the Ice Bucket Challenge and how powerful a single post can be!


  24. My first initial thought after reading this was wow he brought up so many different points that I have never even considered or thought about. One statement that definitely stood out to me was when you wrote, “It is difficult to ignore that a majority of the conversation is about the action, and not about the cause.” I could not agree more with this statement and I think you worded it perfectly. A lot of people who use social media sites like to be the center of attention – posting pictures of themselves or statuses about themselves. If someone can post a video of themselves throwing a bucket of ice on their heads, they will jump at this opportunity in order to get attention from others. So I do agree that majority of the people that participated in this challenge put more emphasis on the challenge rather than educating people about ALS. However, I strongly believe that this campaign rose a tremendous amount of awareness about ALS. Myself, and I’m sure plenty of others, did not even know what ALS was before this campaign went viral. So overall, I do believe the Ice Bucket Challenge was a success story and I hope they can figure out a positive, creative, and successful way to handle the influx of donations and work hard to keep the donations flowing.

    • Maeve – You pick out my favorite point of the post. That said, I do agree with you, it was definitely a success for the ALSA. I’m very interested to see how they use the funds, and continue to inform the public about it.


  25. Dennis,

    You definitely brought up a lot of good points that I never thought about when thinking about the success or failure of the challenge. I do think the Ice Bucket Challenge was a success! I think they raised a lot of money that will hopefully be used for research, although I know there has been a lot of talk that the money hasn’t actually been going to the correct place. The main reason I think the Ice Bucket Challenge was a success is because of the awareness it has raised. Ill be honest, I didn’t really know anything about the disease other than hearing the term used before, but after seeing all the posts (and I know you mentioned that less than 20% actually used the term ALS but in my opinion most people were aware of what it was supporting) I went and looked up the disease to find out more about the disease. And I would like to think that I am not the only one who did so.

    I personally like to look at how it effected the people who are closely involved to the disease. I think they truly know what an awful disease it is, so while it may seem like a silly challenge to some it is a huge step in the right direction for them. And that is what I think makes it a success, it may not have accomplished everything but it definitely is a step up for ALS.

    I talked more about the emotional effect it had on those touched by ALS and why that makes it a success in my blog!



  26. In terms of whether or not the Ice Bucket Challenge was a success, I think it would be pretty hard to argue that it wasn’t. Yes, some people seemed to do the challenge more out of vanity or just having fun than out of truly caring about the disease or the organization, but I don’t think that makes the campaign any less successful. Somehow, ALSA seemed to have gotten really strong brand connection with this campaign, to the point where I think everyone knew that the campaign was connected to ALS whether or not specific posts explicitly mentioned ALS or the organization. So, even the people doing the challenge without the perfect intentions were still calling attention to the organization by making their followers think for even a split second of ALS when they scrolled by that video on their news feed.

    Another point that I brought up in my blog post (http://lavidaaccordingtoashley.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/als-ice-bucket-challenge/) was I actually noticed a subset of people who were getting worked up about the fact that people weren’t talking about ALS in their videos and so when they received nominations, in lieu of doing the challenge themselves, they decided to post information about ALS and links to ALSA’s website to donate. I don’t think ALSA could have asked for a better situation than that! Many of those people were part of their latent public before, and were now transformed into an active public that was promoting both their organization and donations to them!

    Yes, ALSA received some backlash and made a few missteps along the way, but I don’t think any of the criticism against them was enough to really hurt their reputation as an organization in the long run. And I completely agree with you that from a straight monetary standpoint $100 million is a success no matter how you slice it.

    My favorite part of your post was the background information on how the campaign got started….maybe I’m alone in this, but I actually had no idea that it wasn’t started by ALSA!

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