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als ice bucket challenge

Technology has made it easier than ever for cause stories and fundraising campaigns to “go viral.” This new opportunity has become the “golden ticket of today’s fundraising world. Many organizations are searching for ways to create that “spark” that spreads like wildfire. However, amid the searching there’s an important question to consider… Are you prepared if you realize success?

Fundraising Lessons from ALS’ “Ice Bucket Challenge”

As we speak, the ALS Association is learning just how powerful catalytic fundraising campaigns and tools like social media can be when it comes to raising awareness and support. Since the campaign started, ALS has raised over $15.6 million from more than 300,000 new donors through their “Ice Bucket Challenge” which is taking the social media world by storm.

The success the ALS Association is experiencing has caught the attention of many nonprofit leaders and fundraising professionals and for obvious reason – there is much to celebrate about this campaign. Today, I wanted to share some thoughts as to why the Ice Bucket Challenge is proving to be such a success, and at the same time, explore some ways that organizations like the ALS Association may be able to maximize the opportunity should they find themselves in a similar position of realizing a true viral success.

5 Keys to a Successful Viral Fundraising Campaigns

Here are five things that nonprofit organizations can learn from the viral success of the Ice Bucket Challenge:

  • It is organic innovation. The Ice Bucket Challenge is fresh, unique, and innovative, but it was not conceived months in advance behind the closed doors of the ALS Association’s offices. It was organically launched by one man who had an idea.
  • It is simple. Sometimes the best ideas are the simplest. The challenge is playful and fun, and can be explained to anyone in a quick sound bite.
  • It invites supporters to act. Having a bucket of ice water dumped on you might seem silly, but it is an action. Inviting you to do more than simply like or share, it challenges supporters to engage in a deeper way than most catalytic strategies.
  • It leverages the idea of challenging others. One of the reasons the Ice Bucket Challenge is so successful is because it prompts supporters to not just “ask” for donations, but challenge others to join.
  • It engages all demographics. From your 7-year-old nephew in St. Louis to the most famous celebrities, the Ice Bucket Challenge is open to everyone and anyone – allowing all to join in on the fun.
5 Keys to Maximizing the Opportunity of Viral Fundraising Campaigns

While there is much to model after and celebrate around the Ice Bucket Challenge, the real success is what happens next. Without a strategic follow up plan, the potential for these kinds of catalytic events is limited to nothing more than a great publicity.

To realize their fullest potential, organizations like the ALS Association must act quickly to harness the momentum of a viral campaign. Here are five keys to help get you started:

  • Gather donor data for long-term fundraising success. Collecting the contact information of those who take the action (get doused with the ice water) is the only way an organization can deepen the relationship with supporters over time. For example, filtering the social media push through a simple micro-site with an embedded name collection form during a campaign may offer the necessary solution.
  • Challenge others to give AND participate. To truly maximize impact, a viral campaign should consider blending the opportunity to act with the opportunity to give so that they are not mutually exclusive.
  • Equip supporters and participants with educational information. Providing supporters with information about the organization’s mission or current strategic priorities extends the impact of the campaign. By including a mission call, you ensure that the campaign is truly driving awareness through education – making it both fun and impactful.
  • Look for ways to leverage the campaign across every communication channel. Most viral campaigns realize great success through social media channels. However, looking for ways to leverage the success in one channel by integrating across a variety of channels (website take-over, direct mail, etc.) establishes a consistent brand experience while also have an exponential impact in driving awareness.
  • Develop a follow-up strategy based on the engagement level of your supporters. Most catalytic campaigns engage supporters who don’t necessarily have a strong, personal affinity or connection to the organization’s mission. In order to develop the best stewardship strategy, consider including elements in the campaign that allow supporters to self-identify their personal connection, and then communicate with them in a timely fashion to find out their motivation for getting involved.

The bottom line: The key to viral fundraising campaigns is to “seize the day” by developing and implementing a plan that allows your organization to leverage the opportunity to the fullest extent.

What was the most interesting thing you’re learning from the ALS Association’s Ice Bucket Challenge?