From 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.
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