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To All the Ice Bucket Copycats: Please Stop

It's happening right now all over the globe. There are dusty executives, in their dusty offices, with their dusty mentalities, and their dusty spreadsheets. Their board has told them that they need to up donations. That they need to find their "Ice Bucket Challenge." The dusty executives are confused because they have a Facebook account, but they're not on it very much. So they all gather around their dusty computers in their dusty office and they watch the #icebucketchallenge.
They laugh.
Then they say - "how does that stimulate donation - those people don't even know about the ALS mission, vision and values?” Then they start to dissect the process, because this is what they've done in the past.
These aren't stupid people. They follow this protocol because it works. It's always worked.
They see what the other guys are doing, and replicate it.
How can we create our own Ice Bucket Challenge?
Call a meeting! It's time to brainstorm! If the ALS association can do it, so can we!!
They'll call everyone into their dusty boardroom. They'll timidly make suggestions. They'll ask for everyone to think of an idea to "go viral."
So they sit down together and put their dusty heads together:
  • It's a challenge!
  • It's fun!
  • It's silly!
  • Voila!
All along, I die a bit on the inside, knowing that this is happening all around the world, in Non Profit offices everywhere.
I urge you to stop.
Please, for the love of all that's holy stop trying to replicate the Ice bucket Challenge. You're better than that. The people who spend their hard earned money on your cause deserve more than that. They will see right through your version of the challenge. They will tell their friends, and it will backfire.
I promise.
My father is living with ALS. ALS is a horrible disease. It's ugly, v-e-r-y ugly. Over the past 5 years I've watched my father deteriorate from a virile 6-foot tall man with a firm handshake to a wheelchair bound person who depends on people to feed, and bathe him. Machines help him breathe. An electrical wheelchair helps him move. A microphone amplifies his soft voice (he can't get enough air to amplify his own voice).
The ice bucket challenge was created from a pure place. The ALS association did NOT create the Ice Bucket Challenge. They have reaped the benefits for sure, and I love that it has brought this beast of a disease to the forefront of our national psyche. It was a spur of the moment idea that didn't start to raise money for ALS, but landed in the lap of the Senerchia family who made it their own. Their family and loved ones jumped into action and broke the inertia. A viral sensation was created.
Reality: You may be able to replicate something like this. Granted, there are elements that marketers use often and willingly to manipulate people into action. This is not something you should try to replicate.
Best lesson you should take: Sometimes ideas are just better, and that's why they catch on. Some products are better, and some techniques to raise money are better. The biggest lesson Nonprofits should take from the Ice bucket challenge is that people like to have fun via social media for a good cause. It's that simple. They feel good, they donate money, and you help your cause. Maybe we should take ourselves less seriously. Allow for people to smile even when the disease your fighting is ugly.
Seems simple, right? But here's the catch - simple is hard, v-e-r-y hard.
But if you must, If you're dusty boss is pushing you to replicate this phenomenon, than look to the book Contagious. Contagious will show you how to make your product or idea catch on. It's based on research, and will offer a loose outline to make compelling content for ingestion via social media.
But I beg of you - make it your own. Make it come from a pure place. Social media is the ultimate bullshit meter, and they will call you out if your promotion has even the faintest whiff of ice bucket challenge in it.
Get introspective; give thanks to those who have donated in the past. Have reverence for them, feature them, make them the celebrities, and the community will take it from there.
Feel like donating to the ALS Association? Follow this link and help strike out ALS.
Photo credit NBC.

Join The Conversation

  • Robin Carey's picture
    Sep 9 Posted 2 years ago Robin Carey Wow, Chris, thanks for sharing this. I also had someone close to me die of ALS. I'm glad that this campaign is drawing attention to the disease, but wish that people spent as much time learning about it as setting up a vine.
  • Sep 9 Posted 2 years ago melodie2440

    Chris, I would give money to you based on your article. Donating to causes we believe in is an important decision not to be taken lightly. I don't have a lot of extra money in my budget to donate to non-profits, however, what I do have goes to the cancer society. Unfortunately, that disease runs in my family, so I wake up every day hoping someone has found a cure. If you are gong to donate to a non-profit that you believe in, do the best you can do to make that donation count. By doing so, you will get recognized, and people will follow your lead.

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