What to think of the Ice Bucket Challenge?

27/08/2014 at 6:57 am 2 comments

This summer, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” went viral. The challenge involves dumping a bucket of ice water on someone’s head to promote awareness of the disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and encourage donations to research.

The challenge proved incredibly popular. According to The New York Times people shared more than 1.2 million videos on Facebook between 1 June  and 13 August and mentioned the phenomenon more than 2.2 million times on Twitter.

If you watch this you will see where the ALS ice bucket challenge started.

Now have a read of these ‘cold hard facts’ on the Ice Bucket Challenge (Web Strategist, 26 August) and all of the comments below:

George W. Bush takes the Ice Bucket Challenge

George W. Bush takes the Ice Bucket Challenge

Comments about the challenge as a fundraising/awareness raising tool:


  • “In defense of the Ice Bucket Challenge” (Florida Alligator, 26 August)
    – “Though the Ice Bucket Challenge might seem silly on its face, these viral stunts have the potential to inspire powerful and meaningful action.”
  • “In defense of the ice bucket challenge” (Chicago Now, 18 August)
    – It’s a stunt. It doesn’t really raise awareness. But: “I find it very hard to believe you’d be speaking your mind so freely if a person with ALS was sitting in front of you while you complained about a fundraiser that benefits him/her.”
  • “In defense of the silly, shallow ALS ice bucket challenge.” (The Daily Dot, 20 August)
    – “These Random Acts of Narcissism are good for something: raising funds.” And “No one is debating that the ALS ice bucket challenge is silly, shallow, and a total waste of resources .. but appealing to what is silly and shallow has proved a whole lot more effective than a fundraising campaign in earnest.”
  • “Why I’m defending the ice bucket challenge” (Examiner.com, 26 August)
    – “I’m here defending something that has raised an incredible amount of awareness about an uncommon and fatal disease and that’s something that I’m proud of.”
  • “Why I’m deeply grateful for the ice bucket challenge” (Forbes, 26 August)
    – “It’s surreal to see this rare affliction, so much on my mind, now dominate so much of the news.”

The institutional perspective:

  • “Ice Bucket Challenge: Can other non-profits reproduce it?” (Beth Kanter, 26 August) – The ice bucket challenge helped cheer people up in a summer of bad news around the world, and it gave people something fun to get engaged in. Positive peer pressure was a big reason why people entered the challenge. Charities are unlikely to be able to reproduce it, but if they incorporate the successful elements (social proofing, fun call to action, and embracing free agents) they might get results.
  • “How your charity can replicate the ice bucket challenge” (Change Fundraising, 27 August) – You can’t. Better to focus on the basics: build people’s confidence by being effective, transparent, and showing the public how you help.



Comments about scarcity:



Other challenges:



And then there are these “ten ALS Ice Bucket Haters” (Politico), and these Ice Bucket Challenge cartoons:






















But what do YOU think?

Leave a comment below.


Entry filed under: NGOs. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

UN report: Brazil is winning Irish over-estimate the amount of foreign aid – yet still support it

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Stephen Farley  |  27/08/2014 at 7:51 am

    I donate regularly to charity, but the ten euro I donated after the ice bucket challenge was extra, and a donation I was planning. The water I poured over my head I can’t ship to where it is needed, but the ten euro might have an impact. A good deed is a good deed.

  • 2. Rory Sturdy  |  29/08/2014 at 6:04 pm

    The ice bucket challenge is a beautiful thing that has raised a lot of awareness, compassion, togetherness and funding. It in no way impedes the achievement of access to clean water for all. I live in geneva where public water taps run 24/7. This is not seen as wasting water, because there is a natural cycle of water returning to ground, springing up, evaporating, and returning to ground. If that natural cycle is not happening, then there is something seriously wrong with how people are interacting with their area, eg California. The amount of water ‘used’ globally by the ice bucket challenge is minuscule compared to how much is used on growing water-intensive crops not native to the region in California every day.

    I reckon the ice bucket, shave or die and movember all work because they tap into the ‘look at me’ culture that many columnists are deriding at the moment because of the ice bucket. But you can look at anything in a positive or negative light. First and foremost – the outcome is positive, so why particularly pick on ice bucket challenges over say, activities that flood social media and also have negative outcomes? Also – the ‘look at me’ culture of social media – yes, you can take the perspective that people are narcissistic and self-centred, but there is also the positive perspective – people enjoy doing fun quirky things like growing a moustache or dying their hair – it gives their friends a bit of a laugh and it makes them feel good about doing something. People feel powerless so often watching so many stories on the news (at least I do!) – Gaza, Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, Ferguson, this summer alone – one columnist said during the week the ice bucket challenge is a bad thing because it distracts people from these ‘real’ issues – but the ice bucket challenge is something people can actually get involved in, take some power into their own hands to make a difference. There have been the negative stories about how many people have done the challenge but didn’t donate. So what! Lots of people donated far more than the average. We could just as easily focus on that. By and large, people are kind and decent – and yes, everyone has an ego to some degree and likes to get some attention, but it gives a laugh to their friends, and raises funding and awareness. There are plenty of bad goings-on in the world – why take the negative perspective on the nice fun things too. That’s my meandering two cents anyway


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