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Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

The Most Important Take-Away From The Ice Bucket Challenge

August 25th, 2014 by Karen Climer

Unless you’ve got a bucket of ice water over your head, you’re aware of the latest viral fundraising craze, the Ice Bucket Challenge.  It’s been going on for several months, but it’s spread faster than a cold in a kindergarten class in the last few weeks.  Why is it so successful?  There are several reasons, but I’m going to focus on one because it’s something you can immediately use at your organization.

The best fundraising is always person to person and volunteer-driven.  The Ice Bucket Challenge is no exception.  The original challenge did not come from any ALS organization.  It came from a regular person who cared about ALS, posted a video, and called out a friend.  Once celebrities started doing it, it went viral.

One of the keys to the Ice Bucket Challenge is that each person calls out another person by name to dump a bucket of ice water over their head.  It’s peer-to-peer.  It’s not the organization calling out to a mass of people.  It is one person saying to their friend, “I challenge you to dump a bucket of ice water over your head or donate $100 to ALS.”  That’s powerful.

The challenges that don’t work well are when someone says, “I challenge all of the teachers at First Street Elementary School to pour ice water over their heads.”  That’s 30-40 people, so it lets the individuals off the hook.  (By the way, this is the same concept as saying to your board, “It’s the beginning of the fiscal year.  Don’t forget we need all board members to make a donation.”)  It’s just not as effective.  Probably 10 of the 40 teachers at the school will do it.  If one teacher did it and called out another who called out another, they would have gotten through all the teachers.  Yes, it takes more time, but it is infinitely more effective.

Fundraising works best when it is one specific person asking another specific person.  It works even better when it’s volunteer driven.  That’s the lesson we can all take away from the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Posted in Asking, Social Media

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