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Over the past several weeks, fundraising professionals have watched in amazement as the ALS Association has raised more than $100 million from over 3 million donors through the Ice Bucket Challenge.

For me, all of the excitement surrounding the Ice Bucket Challenge was exciting to see. It was evidence for the rest of the nonprofit world that catalytic fundraising works. However, at this point, I believe there are several important questions that ALS (and other organizations trying to learn from their success) should consider.

While the organic growth of catalytic campaigns can take nonprofits on a thrilling journey, it’s equally important for organizations to begin asking questions like…

  1. Where do we go from here?
  2. What new opportunities does your organization have because of the success of the campaign?
  3. How can we tell donors about the tangible impact they’re making with support?

Nonprofit organizations might not be able to control whether a catalytic campaign takes off. However, how they respond to questions like these is completely within their control.

Four Ways to Maximize Catalytic Campaigns for Long-Term Success

How can ALS and other nonprofits looking to maximize catalytic campaigns ultimately achieve long-term fundraising success? Here are four ways:

  1. Define how the newly raised funds will be used and develop a strategy for communicating that plan with your new donor base. The Ice Bucket Challenge is a great reminder that every nonprofit should have a well thought out case for support and strategic plan. Knowing your “big hairy audacious goal” and case for support allows you to inform donors about how you plan on using their donations whenever a catalytic campaign takes off.
  2. Leverage the media buzz to respond to supporters and share a compelling case for support. What if ALS leveraged all of the media hype around the Ice Bucket Challenge to send leadership on a talk show circuit thanking donors and sharing how their support has helped create a tangible difference in the fight for the cure. Leveraging the “buzz” surrounding a catalytic campaign to share outcomes and your plan moving forward is a way to build greater awareness for your cause and loyalty with new donors.
  3. Create a welcome series for new donors from the campaign that engages them with your organization. Instead of sending a simple “thank you,” engaging donors through a strategic welcome series is a way to cultivate new donors to be part of the mission. Organizations looking to maximize catalytic campaigns should look to develop an integrated follow-up campaign that is both fun and educational.
  4. Engage existing donors in a unique way. While capitalizing on the millions of new donors is an important part of a catalytic campaign, engaging existing donors is just as important in maximizing viral campaigns. Whether it’s leveraging the campaign to challenge current donors to spread the word or using it as an opportunity to upgrade donors, having a strategy for engaging your current database is an essential part of the strategy.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is evidence that catalytic campaigns have the potential to reach epidemic levels of success. However, I believe the real success for ALS is still to be determined. The organization has an incredible opportunity to take the Ice Bucket Challenge from an electrifying PR moment to a catalytic campaign that changes the trajectory of the organization forever.

Bottom Line: The real key to maximizing catalytic campaigns as a nonprofit organization is based in your ability to engage donors in meaningful ways, clearly articulate the impact that has been made, and develop a plan for transitioning your donors to become life-long supporters of your organization.