Grab a cup of coffee, five minutes and tune in with me to the topic of the ice bucket challenge: What happens after the ice melts?
Last week, I had the pleasure of sitting down in an interview styled webinar with the ALS Association and the folks at Fundraising Success. We had a delightful discussion with Lance Slaughter, Chief Development Officer and Chapter Relations extraordinaire for the ALS Association. Slaughter walked us through the series of events that unfolded this summer with the ice bucket challenge (IBC). We discussed the amount of unprecedented attention that the organization received and just how he and his staff responded to all of the attention. We also talked about what is in sight on the road ahead, post IBC.
Today I would like to share some interview highlights and what I learned from ALS Association about the social media phenomenon that was the Ice Bucket Challenge:
1. The attention was unprecedented.
No one could have ever imagined it or expected it and the staff was working around the clock to manage it. Going into the second half of July, the ALS Association team had no idea what was about to explode. By mid-August, they were seeing contributions rolling in and having days of $7M, then $8M, then $9M and so on. It was never a master marketing plan or something that had been strategized beforehand. It simply happened and they chose to support it and to do everything they could to keep the awareness momentum going. It is a perfect example of the term “viral” when used on the internet.
2. It wasn’t just about the contributions.
In fact, it was never intended to be a fundraising campaign. It was an awareness campaign. We see a lot of talk these days on how to “break the internet”. This was right up there. When you look at the stats, there is so much to this campaign that took it well beyond fundraising. Here are some of the stats:
- Youtube: IBC Videos Watched 1 BILLION+ times = one of the biggest video phenomenon in the history of the Internet.
- Facebook: 440 million users uploaded IBC videos with over 10 billion views.
- Twitter: By August 29, the IBC had 4.5 million Twitter mentions.
- Wikipedia Searches for ALS: 2.89 million times in August, compared to an average of only 163,300 times per month between January 2013 and July 2014 = 18-fold increase!!
- Web Traffic: In August 30 million visitors in total to alsa.org. 5 million visits on Aug 20, 83% of those were new visits. This was up from average of 17,500 daily visits.
I think what is most captivating, and something that Slaughter and I discussed, is the statistic on Wikipedia searches. Not only were people participating in the fun aspect of the social media campaign and making and sharing the funny videos, they became generally curious about ALS and went the extra step to research it and find out more about the disease and what all of the IBC hoopla was even about. The notion that 2.5 million people who donated don’t care is just false. You see that in the search stats, and I find that is VERY inspiring.
3. Money raised will fuel underfunded research
I asked ALS about how the unexpected funding changed things. I posed this: “There is a perception now that you have a lot of extra money from this phenomenon, how are you changing your plans to use it?” The key to this is the word perception. What I learned from Slaughter is that it is merely a perception that the money is “extra”. In actuality, what the IBC money is doing is allowing the ALS Association to play catch up. Research for this disease has been underfunded and now there is money for research and support programs.
4. It was never about the organization.
It is about ALS awareness and stewarding ALS programs in general, outside of their organization’s programs. The ALS Association happened to get the most attention, but they are stewards to the cause and the mission of ending ALS.
Slaughter’s advice for organizations asking themselves “What’s my ice bucket challenge?”:
One of the recurring themes Slaughter shared with us is that it was an awareness campaign. I found this so relevant to a subject that has come up in so many of my discussions with organizations lately: Mission. When thinking about creating buzz around your organization, being Mission-centric is uber important. Without the mission, there are just people and money. Your mission is why people gravitate to you. It is the personal connection of the mission that allows for people to strive for more and do more. It is the mission that inspires the blood, sweat and tears and the fight to do more for your cause. So, when you think about building your ice bucket challenge or your next large campaign, make the story of your mission the front and center of everything.