It was in July 2014 that the Ice Bucket Challenge (IBC) took off after Peter Frates, a Massachusetts man who was was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, posted his challenge video. By the fall, the IBC had raised over $200 million worldwide.
Will there be another altruistic movement that goes viral 2015? I hope so!
I’m on the lookout for the next big challenge fundraiser. Here are six things I’ll be watching for.
The Challenge Will Start With One Individual
The Ice Bucket Challenge started with one key person: Peter Frates. It wasn’t the brainchild of a nonprofit, business, or—heaven forbid—an agency. It came from someone with ALS. It was created by the people, for the people.
Why was this possible? Technology, mobile, and social networks are making it easier for individuals to launch fundraisers on their own. Online giving sites like GoFundMe and make-on-demand platforms like Booster give individuals the tools they need to quickly scale their fundraising efforts.
The Challenge Will Target Young People
The Ice Bucket Challenge began with a Millennial—30 year-old Frates. It caught fire because of Millennials and their love for causes, mobile, video and social networks. Simply put, the IBC couldn’t have happened without Millennials, and the next big challenge won’t succeed without them.
While more people of all ages are participating in crowdfunding campaigns, the key audience to activate is still Millennials. As digital natives, they have the desire and skills to share cause campaigns with friends and older generations. And, since older Millennials are in their mid-thirties, they also have the money to back actions with giving.
Regardless of whether Gen X and Baby Boomers embrace a new challenge after it begins, it will start and succeed because of men and women born after 1980.
The Challenge Will Put Engagement First
The Ice Bucket Challenge put engagement (i.e. pour this bucket of ice water over your head) before asking (i.e. “Want to donate to ALS?”), which proved a more effective way of raising money for Gen Y and Z—generations who prefer action over talk.
Similarly, The Twizzler Challenge that gained some momentum earlier this year had two do-gooders chewing opposite ends of a Twizzler in support of autism awareness. If you give people something to do, and encourage them to share with their friends, you have a better chance of earning a donation.
The Challenge Will Include A Strong Emotional Message
Cutting through the clutter and “logic” of your cause to engage people emotionally is critical. Psychologist Paul Slovic has said that statistics are "human beings with the tears dried off." The Ice Bucket Challenge succeeded not because of the lifesaving research that each donation funded, but because of the human beings it would help—and the faces tied to each individual request.
I can’t overstate the importance of emotional appeal. Despite my own training in persuasion (which stressed appeals to logic and credibility alongside emotion) my real-world experience is that people feel first, feel again, feel just for the heck of it and then—just maybe—think. By then, rationality is so soaked in tears, anxiety, awe, and anger that it looks more like emotion. The next challenge won’t include ice water, but I still expect plenty of water works.
The Campaign Will Launch On The Right Platform
Crowdfunding platforms are becoming more popular—and specialized. While most donors of the Ice Bucket Challenge gave directly the to ALS Association or another ALS-related charity, I think the next challenge will launch on a crowdfunding site. For example:
GoFundMe is the world’s #1 fundraising site for personal causes and life-events
Booster allows companies, nonprofits and individuals to use t-shirts for fundraising
GiveForward is the leading platform for medical fundraising
Donorschoose is a popular site that helps classrooms get the supplies they need
121Giving is doing what DonorsChoose does, but for nonprofits instead of classrooms
Using the right crowdfunding platform can add momentum to a campaign, or friction if you choose the wrong one. Without a central fundraising site, the ALS association lost millions to other ALS organizations that had no connection to the Ice Bucket Challenge. The next major challenge will begin—or quickly move—to a central fundraising platform.
The Campaign Will Include Several Options For How People Can Support It
Social networks have changed everything about how people support fundraisers. As this SSIR article points out, the “donor ladder” with its clear points of engagement is gone. The ladder has morphed into a vortex that is an ongoing flow of engagement and communication. In short, donations will happen at different points and for different reasons.
Nonprofit trainer and author Beth Kanter advises, “It’s important to brainstorm different calls to actions that go from light or easy involvement to heavier or more intensive involvement.”
These can include:
Asking people to make a donation
Asking people to ask others to make a donation
Asking supporters to share a story or photograph that connects them with the campaign
Engaging audiences in conversation about the campaign
Sharing information or visuals about the campaign via social networks
Bundling different ways to donate can be another strategy worth consideration.
Take the example of the friends of Joe Henson, an 11 year-old-boy diagnosed with brain cancer. Joe’s friends raised money to cover his medical expenses on GiveForward. To date they’ve raised over $27,000. At the same time, supporters launched a t-shirt fundraiser on Booster, which actor Chris Pratt (Parks & Recreation, Jurassic World) supported. The effort to support Joe Henson sold over 3,400 shirts and raised nearly $50,000 in sales and donations.
Will there be another challenge like the Ice Bucket Challenge? It’s impossible to time a viral fundraiser. But we can predict that it will likely begin with a Millennial, lead with emotion and engagement, and launch on a dedicated fundraising platform that will better funnel donations to the benefiting charity.
The Ice Bucket Challenge was special, but not unique. It’s only a matter of time before a do-gooder throws cold water on the myth that lightning doesn’t strike twice.
Originally published Jul 14, 2015 7:00:00 AM, updated November 28 2018