If you were anywhere near a computer during the summer of 2014, you likely witnessed dozens of people pouring ice cold water on themselves, or requesting someone else to do the honors. Everyone, from celebrities to children got in on the action that was dubbed, the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” which some saw as a way to participate in a viral event and others simply wanting to experience the rush of adrenaline from being doused with freezing cold water. Not everyone know its history, but it soon became apparent via think pieces and editorials that the purpose of the event was to bring awareness to Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is described as “neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord” on the website of the association for the disease, which started the challenge to begin with.
The initial goal of the challenge was to drive donations by creating the ultimatum of giving money or having ice cold water poured on you, posted online for everyone to see. The creators of the challenge couldn’t have anticipated how much fun that would be to watch, but it turned out to be one of the most viral campaigns in recent in history. And pretty soon, people were doing the challenge willingly.
As a result, the criticism was strong and swift. Though harmless, many viewed those who participated in the bucket challenge, as selfish and unwilling to give money. Once again, critics believed that social media overshadowed the importance of the efforts and that people were eager to be seen rather to make an impact. Apparently, though, that wasn’t the case.
The campaign helped the ALS Association gain $100 million in 30 days. The donations went to funding new research, which puts us one step closer to finding a cure for the illness that affects around 20,000 Americans. The project funded by the donations is helping researchers better understand the genetics associated with ALS and has been heralded as a significant discovery in the grand scheme of things.
Not every viral campaign has been as effective, of course. Sometimes, there are no actionable metrics to bring about real change. With the Ice Bucket challenge, though, it seems things actually paid off and will continue to do so overtime.
The lesson in it all is to realize that social media, and the digital world entirely, is an integral part of our daily lives and everything we do. That doesn’t exclude philanthropy. In fact, it enhances our ability to spread our ideas and campaigns more quickly.