Three words: Ice Bucket Challenge. (Or one hashtag: #IceBucketChallenge) When did you pour a bucket of ice water over your head? Who challenged you to do it? I bet the team at For Momentum has been challenging each other all week! By now, we all know what the #IceBucketChallenge is. It has informed people about a truly terrible disease – ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease) – and raised over $94 million (and counting) for organizations that fight the disease, particularly the ALS Association.
THE #ICEBUCKETCHALLENGE IS SUCCEEDING FOR SEVERAL IMPORTANT REASONS:
1. It puts engagement (i.e. pour this bucket of ice water over your head) before asking (i.e. “Hey, want to donate to the ALS Assoication?”), which is a more effective way of raising money, especially for Millennials who prefer action to talk.
2. The #IceBucketChallenge isn’t the brainchild of a nonprofit or a business or – heaven forbid – an agency. It came from someone with ALS. It was created by the people, for the people.
3. The challenge caught fire on social media as supporters shared the hashtag and videos of themselves taking the challenge. Social impact was the fire. Social media was the gasoline.
4. The #IceBucketChallenge is scaleable. It has created (and has the potential to create) additional fundraising opportunities.
The #IceBucketChallenge wasn’t the first or last “challenge fundraiser.” Last week, the Canadian Cancer Society launched the Fearless Challenge. You make a video of yourself describing your fear, set a target for how much cash it will take for you to face it. When you reach your fundraising goal, you make another video proving that you didn’t chicken out!
One person who has a fear of spiders is willing to let tarantulas crawl all over him for $5,000!
Here are three other types of cause challenges that have sought to raise money and awareness for a cause.
This is probably the oldest kind of challenge as people have sought to push themselves to the limit to raise money for causes. Endurance bike rides like Rodman Ride for Kids and the Pan-Mass Challenge has raised millions! Of course, marathons have been a popular challenge with millions of participants each year. But none of these compare to the modest challenge that each year is completed 5,000 times across twenty countries. The American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life is a walking and community event that runs through the night. For the average person, the physical demands of the relay are modest. Yet participants take the challenge seriously, raising $5 billion since the event’s inception.
I bet you remember the Lance Armstrong Livestrong Bracelets. You might have even worn one. Launched in 2004, these yellow bracelets were the must-wear item. Celebrities like Lance Armstrong, Lindsay Lohan and John Kerry proudly wore theirs, signaling their approval to millions of others to join them. It worked! Livestrong sold 80 million bracelets.
The hashtag #IceBucketChallenge has spread like wildfire on social networks. But it wasn’t the first successful hashtag for a cause. After the Haiti Earthquake in 2010, #Haiti was Twitter’s top trend for a week, and was the subject of at least 15% of tweeted links, which directed users to donation sites. The American Red Cross used #HaitiRelief to raise $8 million in donations.
Not all hashtag challenges have succeeded. Do you remember #Kony2012 and its goal to arrest Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony on crimes against humanity? Sadly, Kony is still at large. It’s an important footnote that not all challenges are fun and successful like the #IceBucketChallenge.
Cause challenges come in all shapes and sizes.
I couldn’t find any more details about this challenge, or how much it raised. And I think I know why. Regardless of the type of challenge, they all need mobile devices and social networks to ignite. A challenge without these is like a tree that falls in the forest. If people can’t hear it, it doesn’t make a sound.