Has the Ice Bucket Challenge reached its tipping point?

ice bucket challenge by Anthony Quintano:FlickrFrom Dolly Parton, George W Bush and Oprah to this ‘cute’ two-year-old, everyone is doing it: unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past fortnight, your news feed is probably as full as ours with the now infamous Ice Bucket Challenge.

Not since #nomakeupselfie has a viral charity campaign gone so crazy. Almost by accident, as of 27 August, The ALS Association has received $94.3m in donations (compared with $2.7m in the same period last year).

Yet among all this success, there have been vocal criticisms.

Among them:

Are people donating or just taking part in the fun?

Is tipping water on your head supposedly symbolic/attune to having ALS or going through chemotherapy? How does this really build long-term engagement and awareness with the issues?

Should we really be wasting water in such a way when millions don’t have access to it?

According to this piece of research, 56% of ice bucket participants didn’t donate and 53% didn’t know what the challenge was in aid of. Does that really matter when ALS have close to $100m in the bank?

The vocal criticism has even seen rise to some quite amazing spin-offs around the world:

The Gaza Rubble Bucket Challenge.

The Rice Bucket Challenge in India.

Through all of the debate, two things have really stood out above the rest as a reminder that seemingly flippant viral campaigns can and do make a difference:

1) An ALS sufferer talks about what the Ice Bucket Challenge means to him.

2) A heartfelt and real example of how we can turn the conversation in further positive directions.

If it were possible to create a magic campaign to simultaneously solve poverty, the issues in Gaza and clean water for everyone, we almost certainly would have thought of it by now. Not doing good because there are loads of other problems we haven’t solved yet won’t get us anywhere.

Slacktivism or not, with almost zero investment the ALS and numerous charities around the world now have millions of pounds in the bank and people are talking. Not just about the cause, but about charity-giving in general – what works, what doesn’t – putting charity conversations firmly front of mind. Surely that’s a good thing?

But there’s no magic bullet. As with the #nomakeupselfie, no one clicked their fingers in an agency meeting and said: “I’ve got it!” The Ice Bucket Challenge couldn’t be planned, nor could its popularity be predicted. Many will try (and fail) to recreate its ubiquity. The ALS has been bestowed a powerful gift from the people – we’ll have to wait and see which charity will be next.

Jacqui Copas, group account director at Public Zone, Zone’s prosocial division

  • Joe
  • Devin Hudspeth

    I want to start off by saying that your article involves a
    very controversial topic that many people don’t really look into. There are
    many factors that people tend to ignore including how much of the donation
    actually goes into the research for a cure and how much water is actually being
    wasted. In your article you ask, “Are people donating or just taking part in
    the fun?” In my opinion, people are just taking part in the fun. Social media
    has become such a major influence in today’s world and I feel that posting the
    ice bucket challenge to your profile increases your social status. One of the
    stats you mentioned was that more than half of the people didn’t donate or even know what the challenge was supporting. To me, this shows that most people just want to participate in the ice bucket challenge to have fun. Would these people
    actually dump a bucket of ice water on their head if there were no social media
    cites to post it to? Another factor is how much water is actually wasted from
    doing the challenge. Everyone knows there are countries that don’t have access
    to clean drinking water and I think that a few million American’s pouring clean water over their head is very wasteful. I feel that the charity has positive intentions
    and has raised a lot of money for a good cause but in my opinion the bucket
    should be filled with something less scarce than water.

  • samlevyasu

    This article is one that is incredibly relevant, and like what Devin said, doesn’t get as much attention as it should. In my opinion, the Ice Bucket Challenge is both allowing people to take part in the fun, but it is also allowing the ALS to gather funds. While I do think that people need to be more educated on the topic, I also think that it doesn’t really matter if every single person knows about it or not. Not every person knows about starvation, not every person knows about all the tragedies going on around the world. While dumping ice water on your head does not explain what ALS is, it does show the side effects of getting the horrible disease. The reason for the ice water is because it makes you feel paralyzed for a second, which is similar to what ALS does. The article says over half the people who take part in the challenge don’t know what it is for, and while that is unfortunate, ALS is still receiving publicity through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter posts. However, if we look at the other stat, the fact that 56% of people didn’t donate, we see that 44% did. If it wasn’t for the social media challenge, I can guarantee not nearly that amount of people would have donated. In an article on sheboyganpress.com ,it is said that “People who already have donated to ALS may feel less inclined to donate elsewhere, and other organizations will feel increasing pressure to come up with a hot fundraiser of their own.” This shows that organizations will be feeling pressure to do better and make more money, which will in turn, help us find cures for these terrible diseases. ALS has raised over 100 million dollars, which is mind blowing. All in all, I would say that while some do not understand the challenge, it was well worth it for them to launch this program. Having said that, I do not believe the challenge has reached the tipping point. As defined by whatis.com, a tipping point is “the critical point in an evolving situation that leads to a new and irreversible development.” I feel that the challenge has swept the nation, but I am not sure if it has swept the world, and if it will be around forever. The ice bucket challenge will most likely go away soon, and the ALS Association will have to go back to finding ways to raise funds. It may reach a tipping point in the future but right now, it has not.