Ice Bucket Challenge and the Changing Face of Philanthropy

Unless you live under — an ice bucket — you’ve likely been witness to numerous friends, family, and celebrities dumping giant vats of freezing cold water over their head to raise awareness and funds for ALS research (or because of peer pressure and a unrelenting desire to fit in.) In nearly a month, the viral campaign has raised $32 million dollars for the organization, compared to about $2 million during the same time last year.

Not everyone is talented in the art of heaving ice water over their heads (see video below.) And, on a related note, not everyone is thrilled with this new form of viral fundraising. There’s a lot of concern from fundraisers that this has all turned into a bit of a popularity contest — that curing diseases shouldn’t be about marketing for a specific ailment but instead the encouragement of generations to donate for a common good.

But before we address such serious matters, let’s take a moment to pause and reflect on all the things that can go wrong dumping ice water on your head…

Now that we’re through with that, where were we? Ah, yes. The evolution of charity and the ALS challenge and all the people who have a bone to pick with it.

Giving money for a good cause is something we all should do if we can afford it, either during our lives or as part of our wills. No matter how much money is provided by the government and for-profit programs, there are always going to be organizations working to help the world that need funding and support.

Unfortunately, the programs that often need the support most don’t have advanced social media marketing teams.  ALS is a serious illness that does indeed need money for its research — which one sufferer in a video shared doesn’t get big pharma money for research since only 30k people have the disease today. However, the ALS Association only puts 27% of all its funds raised into research. $1.9 million goes towards salaries (including over $300k for its president) and $4 million goes into fundraising.

Not every charity organization is perfect, and this doesn’t mean that we should avoid donating just because some money goes wasted while raising awareness of certain illnesses. Yet the money raised doesn’t always go to the diseases and illnesses that need it most.


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