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What’s missing from the recent craze in peer-to-peer fundraising for ALS?

Everybody’s doing it; from your friends and family to public figures and celebrities like Martha Stewart, George W. Bush, Justin Timberlake and Oprah, to teams and organizations including the NY Jets to the Patriots.  The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a dream-like situation for nonprofits who continuously strive to gain awareness for causes that demand attention and funding. The Ice Bucket Challenge has been wildly successful in providing reach for the ALSA message and in generating donations through peer to peer fundraising. What could possibly be missing?

First let’s talk about how it all began.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was started by Pete Frates, who has lived with the debilitating neurological disorder ALS since 2012. From there, the challenge has become the most successful awareness generating and social fundraising campaign for any cause or nonprofit known to date. In the viral video shared on Mashable, Anthony Carbajal called out to critics saying the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is the “first successful advocacy we’ve ever really had. Every single challenge makes a difference and we are so so grateful.”

ALS spokesperson Carrie Munk commented, “This level of unprecedented giving is something I don’t think this country has seen before outside of a disaster or emergency… We had no idea it would get to this point.” Between June 1st and August 17th, over 28 million people have joined the conversation about the ice bucket challenge on Facebook and over 2.4 million videos have been posted (Facebook).

Through virally successful peer-to-peer fundraising efforts, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has succeeded in raising over $62 million in donations. The challenge has engaged 1.2 million new donors due to the organic and word-of-mouth peer-to-peer fundraising campaign cleverly disguised as a viral social media sensation. This is a subject near and dear to us at Crowdster, and is the cause marketing premise upon which we built the peer-to-peer fundraising functionality of our platform.

The cold-hard-facts and results of social peer-to-peer fundraising during the Ice Bucket Challenge:

  1. Funds Raised Compared to 2013:
    Compared to last year’s $2.2 Million raised in the same time period, the Ice Bucket Challenge has helped ALS bring in over $62 Million in donations! That is a growth of over 30x in one year.
  2. New Donors in 2014: 1.2 million
  3. Facebook Reach: Over 28 million people joined the conversation and over 2.4 million videos have been posted between June 1st and August 17th about the Ice Bucket Challenge (Facebook).
  4. Twitter Reach: Over 5.5 million mentions of the ice bucket challenge have been made in the past 30 days (

How did the challenge gain so much momentum?
Social media is inherently equipped with functionality that enables participants to “tag” their next challenge recipients through mentioning them in their post. When a participant is mentioned, they get a notification by email and a push notification on their phone. Not only does this remind them in multiple ways to complete their challenge, but there is the visual component of responsibility that their name has been “called out” within a public forum. How else do you think Martha Stewart got pulled into it?

Videos are also the most engaging and widely shared type of content on Facebook, like those videos you’ve seen shared with multiple well-known figures completing the challenge. Now add some celebrities pouring ice and water over their heads, and you’ve hit cause marketing gold.

So, what then was missing from the Ice Bucket Challenge?
While the simplicity of posting a video to social media may have helped in the challenge’s success, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is missing a strategic method to draw the participants back in at a later date. Yes, anyone can drop a gallon of ice and water over their head and post a video to facebook, even donate 100 dollars. However, once the momentum and novelty wears off, will these donors still be active supporters?  With a system in place that would provide a future method of contact (such as an email address or a follow on social media), participants could be re-engaged through future messaging to stay involved in the cause. One way to keep in touch would be through a drip email marketing campaign. This would help sustain the momentum of support over time. may have also benefited by hosting the Ice Bucket Challenge on their own site to drive all traffic from participants to directly, rather than hoping that participants include a link on social networks and that the donations get to the right place.  Driving awareness and understanding surrounding ALS, participants who loaded their video directly on the site would have had the opportunity to learn more about the disease and donate once onsite.  A back-end component could also provide a method to track participants. But then again, maybe these are plans for future ALS Ice Bucket Challenges to come…

Whether or not ALSA decides to implement a long-term solution to sustain the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge beyond 2014, it has been an eye-opening case study. We have learned what excites and engages people to provide support for a worthy cause.  We look forward to the creative methods of peer-to-peer fundraising that will spin off of this social experiment in philanthropy.

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