5 Things for Fundraisers to Learn From the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Ice Bucket Challenge Ice Bucket Challenge

It is actually possible to raise $30+ million in less than a month from small dollar donors, even if you are not President Obama.

Silly ideas can work, and there’s a multiplier effect — the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t just raising money for the ALS Association, it’s building our country’s culture of philanthropy.

You can actually put the FUN in fundraising with efforts like this. Also, using social media in this interactive way can really build influence, which will lead to more funding.

Having a strong base of local supporters can mean major impact. The whole ice bucket challenge wasn’t started by the ALS Association. It took off as a fundraiser for ALS when a Boston-area man with ALS challenged his community to donate to the ALS Association or dump ice water on their heads. We all want to carefully guide the efforts of donors, members, and volunteers to keep it aligned with the strategy, but this is a great example of what creativity can achieve without too much structure.

And … yes, you can raise money on Twitter and Facebook!

But, before you run out and try to create an ice bucket challenge of your own … consider the pieces that fell into place for the Ice Bucket Challenge to work:

  • It was started by a motivated stakeholder — if the ALS Association had orchestrated this effort, it probably would not have had the same impact.
  • It is silly but not inappropriate — you need to stand out without turning people off.
  • The cause is not controversial — if you are raising money for a divisive issue, something like this will likely have less reach, as high-profile individuals might not want to be as public with their support.

The biggest lesson I think fundraisers can learn from this is that your strategy is a foundation, but you should be open to creativity, especially in this competitive fundraising landscape. Focusing on engaging supporters, welcoming their ideas, and embracing new approaches can help you build momentum and increase donations. The great challenge for the ALS Association now will be to cultivate and steward the 600,000+ new donors they have so that they can maintain their support for years to come.