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Unless you’ve been taking a hiatus from all forms of media and interaction with other people, you’ve no doubt seen or heard about people pouring a bucket of ice water over their own heads in the name of charity.

That’s because more than 1.2 million people (including plenty of celebrities and tech giants) have taken part in the viral social media movement on Facebook alone. And some 15 million people have discussed it on Facebook whether it was a “like,” a comment, or a video. All this has just happened in the past 11 weeks.

 What exactly is the Ice Bucket Challenge?

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge consists of a person dousing himself or herself with a bucket of ice water and donating $10 to ALS Association or opting out and donating $100. That person then nominates three other people to take the challenge within 24 hours.

Now before you take a shot at hashtag activists, here are some real statistics. According to a release from ALS earlier this week, the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised more than $15.6 million from more than 300,000 new donors to fight amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, in the last three weeks alone. During the same period last year the organization brought in just $1.8 million. And in addition to the cash, millions of people are learning about Lou Gehrig’s Disease for the first time.

Who initiated the idea?

On July 15, golfer Chris Kennedy did the ice bucket challenge. He then challenged his cousin Jeanette Senerchia of Pelham, New York, whose husband, Anthony has ALS to take part. Senerchia’s Facebook friend Pat Quinn, who was recently diagnosed with ALS, saw Senerchia take the challenge and then challenged his network. His network overlapped with former Boston College baseball player Pete Frates who has ALS. He began posting about the challenge on Twitter. When the challenge reached Frates’ network it went viral.

Why is the Ice Bucket Challenge such a difference maker?

Lou Gehrig’s Disease is a progressive neurodegnerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons degenerate until they’re dead. When the motor neurons die, the brain can no longer initiate and control muscle movement. So people with this disease eventually lose the ability to eat, speak, walk and eventually breathe.

About 30,000 Americans have the disease. Right now only one drug exists that is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ALS. It only extends survival of the disease by about two or three months.

What is your next “Ice Bucket Challenge”?

ALS’ success is a reminder for every fundraising professional that exponential success is possible with the right idea and preparation.

If you want to learn more about how to develop, manage, and maximize catalytic campaigns, here are 10 strategic fundraising lessons fundraisers can learn from the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Have you taken part in the #ALSIceBucketChallenge? Did you avoid it? Did you donate?