I Would Dump Garbage on My Head If It Would Help a Nonprofit Reach 71,000 New Donors. | npENGAGE

I Would Dump Garbage On My Head If It Would Help a Nonprofit Reach 71,000 New Donors.

By on Aug 15, 2014


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been catching a lot of scrutiny. I get it— why would we be encouraging people NOT  to donate to charity? Why are people being asked to dump ice on their heads to avoid having to making a contribution (even though a large portion of people seem to be doing both)? Shouldn’t we all just encourage giving instead?

In a perfect world, yes. In a perfect world, everyone would give freely and often and social media would be our platform to tell stories about how our donations are making a difference and encourage others to join our favorite causes.

The problem is, this isn’t a perfect world.

We live in a world where the reality is that nonprofits have to get creative to gain and keep our attention. Yes, there are those people that are participating in this ice bucket challenge for the sole reason that they like seeing themselves on camera. They may not understand the severity of Amyoriphic lateral sclerosis or even that  participating in the challenge is benefiting a cause. But, as of Tuesday, the national office of The ALS association had received donations from 71,000 new donors.

Yes, 71, 000 NEW donors.

So, we can all question why we need to dump ice on our heads for the sake of charity, but the problem isn’t the challenge. The problem is us. This type of campaign is the result of our digital behavior. Take a look at your Facebook or Instagram newsfeeds and you’ll notice that it’s primarily filled with people talking about themselves—what they cooked for dinner, where they went on vacation, who they’re romantically involved with, how proud they are of their kids—and somehow we seem to be more accepting of that behavior.

I don’t know about you, but I welcome the change of conversation.

For the first time since I can remember, we’re talking less about ourselves and more about something bigger. Social media is being used for good and I hope it’s contagious. If Pete Frates, along with his family, can start a viral challenge on social media that results in ALS  increasing their donations by 1000% in two weeks, there’s no reason more nonprofits, advocates and fundraisers can’t inspire similar excitement around their favorite cause.

Here are the stats:

  • From July 29 to August 12, the national office of The ALS Association received $2.3 million compared with $25K in donations during the same time period last year.
  • If we look at donations Association-wide (which includes national and chapter revenue), the organization has received $4 million compared to $1.1 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 12).
  • These donations have come from 71,100 new donors to The Association.

*These numbers are updated daily. 

I think the stats are validation enough of the effectiveness of this sort of fundraising. Should it replace all of the other fundraising tactics? Absolutely not.  What it should do, though, is start conversations across the nonprofit community about how fundraising and marketing is continuing to evolve in the digital age.

With distractions around every corner and with every click, nonprofits have no choice but to start thinking outside of the box in order to appeal to new audiences. So, our conversation should be less about the effectiveness of this sort of awareness building and new donor acquisition and a lot more about how to ensure its sustainability.

That’s what we should really be talking about.

This ice bucket challenge has reached people, young and old, that aren’t regularly involved in the nonprofit community. This has been incredible exposure not just for ALS, but for causes in general. Instead of questioning the motives behind participation in this campaign, let’s encourage future participation.

ALS has 71,000 new donors.

They now have the incredible opportunity to build relationships with 71,000 people that they may not have reached otherwise. I say congratulations to ALS. I hope this surge in support gets us closer to finding a cure. To everyone that chose to participate by spreading awareness or making a donation, I say welcome to the nonprofit community. I can only hope this is the beginning of a meaningful and long-term relationship.

Go here to donate and learn how to get involved with The ALS Association.


Madeline Turner is a social media expert, and was formerly the online and social marketing manager at Blackbaud. Prior to running Blackbaud’s social media and thought leadership blog npENGAGE, Madeline worked as a managing editor for Blackbaud’s content marketing program. It is her goal to create content and share ideas that challenge the status quo of the nonprofit industry. When Madeline isn’t tweeting or writing blog posts, you can find her drinking coffee out of her ‘Crazy Cat Lady’ mug, wearing giant headphones and singing off-key.

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