Bill-GatesLately I’m noticing charities using social media in amazing ways to raise money and awareness for their causes. The most obvious one of late to me is the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

In case you spent summer 2014 under a rock, the Ice Bucket Challenge viral fundraising campaign (under the hashtag #icebucketchallenge) challenged participants to either post a video on social media of having a bucket of ice water dumped over their heads or donate $100 to ALS, or both – within 24 hours. Seemingly everyone got on board, from the kids in my own back yard, to celebrities and politicians worldwide. Facebook and Twitter feeds were inundated with videos of people like tech heavyweights Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk nominating each other to out-dump ice on their heads in the name of charity. Gates’ dump had 20,173,669 YouTube views, as of this morning.

While some of the shared videos were just plain funny (or maybe scary??), like the Redneck Ice Bucket Challenge, for example, it was the poignant ones like Anthony Carbajal’s that possibly did the heavy lifting for the ALS campaign. Anthony has ALS, as do his mother and grandmother, and his YouTube Video channel now has almost 25,000 subscribers. Let’s hope he uses this newly found “celebrity” to continue raising ALS awareness. See links below.

Prior to the challenge, public awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was relatively limited; the ALS Association stated that prior to the challenge going viral, only half of Americans had heard of ALS. During the challenge, hits to Wikipedia’s article on ALS grew from an average of 8,000 hits a day to a peak of over 430,000 views on a single day (August 21).

After the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral on social media, public awareness and charitable donations to ALS charities soared. Within weeks of the challenge going viral, The New York Times reported that the ALS Association had received $41.8 million in donations from July 29 until August 21. More than 739,000 new donors have given money to the association, which is more than double the $19.4 million the association received during the year that ended January 31, 2013. On August 29, the ALS Association announced that their total donations since July 29 had exceeded $100 million. So in one month they raised five times what they had raised in the entire year before. These numbers are huge.

How wonderful for ALS that they hit this social media sweet spot. There is no magic formula which determines what goes viral, and for everyone campaign that successfully does, there are thousands which fall flat. Any marketing agency that tells you they can guarantee you a viral video is lying. So when it happens to an organization doing good work for a good cause, it makes me smile. Maybe even shiver a little!



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