Ice Bucket Challenge: Viral Call-to-Action Spurs Awareness and Donations

Last April, Facebook profile photos the world over went red and pink in support of marriage equality; now a new movement is taking social media by storm in the form of an icy challenge.

If you signed on to Facebook recently, you’veprobably seen videos of friends pouring of buckets of ice water on their heads. Known as the “Ice Bucket Challenge,” participants are dared to douse themselves in frigid water or donate $100 to a charity within 24 hours in order to raise funds and awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's Disease. Once the mission is complete, participants then dare another group of friends to accept the challenge, creating a chain reaction and a flood of videos.

The challenge was initially conceptualized by former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates who was diagnosed with ALS two years ago, and fellow ALS patient Pat Quinn. Since late July, the grassroots effort has taken off. Prove Your Purpose’s social media analysis* found conversation around the effort increasing from less than 200 posts on July 31 to nearly 3,000 on August 5. Conversation around the topic of ALS has also spiked in recent days. Although some question whether the Ice Bucket Challenge is actually triggering donations, a recent Mashable article reported donations to the ALS Association increased tenfold between August 4 and August 6, compared to the same time last year.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is groundbreaking in its ability to rally both awareness and donations through social media. The campaign’s “douse or donate” call-to-action triggers equal parts entertainment and action, and is an easy-to-activate but attention-grabbing act that nonprofit and cause marketers can take a page from. The Challenge also shines a light on the true power of social media to become a massive megaphone for an issue, turning social networks into ambassadors.

*Based on a Radian6 search from 7/7/14 - 8/7/14 using a range of keywords including “ice bucket challenge,” “#icebucketchallenge,” “#strikeoutALS,” “ALS,” “#ALS” and “Lou Gehrig's Disease.”

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