Ice Bucket Chal­lenge of­fers in­vig­o­rat­ing fundrais­ing lessons

Modern Healthcare - - NEWS - By Rachel Lan­den

As so­cial me­dia are del­uged with videos of peo­ple dump­ing buck­ets of ice wa­ter on their heads in the name of ad­vo­cacy and phi­lan­thropy for amy­otrophic lat­eral scle­ro­sis (ALS), other health­care not-for-prof­its can find mar­ket­ing lessons in the now-fa­mous chal­lenge that they can use for their own char­i­ta­ble re­quest ef­forts.

Chief among those lessons, be it for dis­ease-re­lated fundrais­ing or a new hos­pi­tal wing, is the power of grass-roots mar­ket­ing. An­other is to con­vey a sense of ur­gency about con­tribut­ing, while per­son­al­iz­ing your ap­peal, be­cause peo­ple re­late more read­ily to other peo­ple than to face­less causes, mar­ket­ing ex­perts agree.

To call the Ice Bucket Chal­lenge— which has its ori­gins out­side of the of­fi­cial not-for-profit ALS or­ga­ni­za­tion—an In­ter­net sen­sa­tion would be an un­der­state­ment. With­out any as­so­ci­a­tion spend­ing for a tra­di­tional fundrais­ing campaign, it’s be­come a na­tional phe­nom­e­non, at­tract­ing the at­ten­tion and sup­port of ac­tors, ath­letes, mu­si­cians and even for­mer pres­i­dents.

“One of the rea­sons this worked so well was be­cause it was grass-roots driven. As it was passed from per­son to per­son, it gath­ered so much mo­men­tum,” said Caryn Stein, vice pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions and con­tent at the on­line fundrais­ing plat­form Net­work for Good. “The other piece was that it tapped into the idea of so­cial net­works, not just as a tech­nol­ogy, but as a mode of our com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Peo­ple who may not pre­vi­ously have heard of ALS were in­tro­duced on­line to its symp­toms and sto­ries. They saw videos of peo­ple such as Pete Frates, 29, a for­mer col­lege base­ball player who was di­ag­nosed with ALS in 2012, par­tic­i­pate in the chal­lenge de­spite be­ing un­able to speak.

“It’s crazy how it ex­ploded,” said Ju­lia Camp­bell of J Camp­bell So­cial Mar­ket­ing. “I’m from Bev­erly, Mass., where Pete Frates is from. I saw it here first, and then all of a sud­den, the Red Sox were do­ing it, and then celebri­ties.”

And that’s part of what has made the campaign so suc­cess­ful, ex­perts say.

“Any­one can do it. Any­one can par­tic­i­pate,” said Rhoda Weiss, health­care con­sul­tant and chair of the Amer­i­can Mar­ket­ing As­so­ci­a­tion’s Ex­ec­u­tive Lead­er­ship Sum­mit. “If we’re go­ing to cre­ate health­ier com­mu­ni­ties, it has to be sim­ple. We have to en­gage our au­di­ence.”

That en­gage­ment starts with a sim­ple call to ac­tion, ex­perts say. For the Ice Bucket Chal­lenge, it means some­one sim­ply records a video of ice wa­ter be­ing dumped on him­self or her­self, posts it on­line and then names—or tags— at least one other per­son to fol­low their lead.

“The old adage is peo­ple give to peo­ple, and this is a prime ex­am­ple,” said Adam Wil­helm, se­nior con­sul­tant at not-for-profit mar­ket­ing con­sul­tancy Camp­bell & Co. “It’s peer-to-peer fundrais­ing at its best.” The 24-hour win­dow to par­tic­i­pate, which be­gins its count­down when a per­son is chal­lenged, helps spur peo­ple to ac­tion as well.

“It cre­ates a sense of ur­gency,” said Sarah Barnes, direc­tor of mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Camp­bell & Co.

That ur­gency has spread across per­sonal net­works be­cause of the way the campaign har­nesses so­cial me­dia, al­low­ing par­tic­i­pants to reach far more peo­ple than just their im­me­di­ate peers.

“You have to be where your donors are,” Camp­bell said. “I always see so­cial me­dia as a hand­shake. Peo­ple need to know you be­fore they do­nate to you.”

And peo­ple have cer­tainly do­nated. Between July 29—when the Ice Bucket Chal­lenge kicked off— and Aug. 29, the ALS As­so­ci­a­tion re­ceived $100.9 mil­lion in con­tri­bu­tions from ex­ist­ing donors and more than 3 mil­lion new donors. That’s more than a 3,500% in­crease in do­na­tions com­pared with the same pe­riod last year for a dis­ease that strikes about 5,600 Amer­i­cans an­nu­ally.

Ex­perts cau­tion that while or­ga­ni­za­tions hop­ing to du­pli­cate the ALS As­so­ci­a­tion’s suc­cess can look for lessons in the campaign, they should not view it as a magic bul­let to be slav­ishly copied in their own ef­forts.

“Not all cam­paigns will go vi­ral,” Stein said. “But that’s not the only goal. It’s to see the mes­sage spread within your com­mu­nity.”

“We would be fool­ish to sug­gest in any way that this is a neg­a­tive for phi­lan­thropy,” said David Flood, vice chair of the As­so­ci­a­tion for Health­care Phi­lan­thropy. “Some are try­ing to sug­gest that this is a flash in the pan, but flashes in the pan get things started.”

And ac­cord­ing to Weiss, “You have to ‘friend raise’ be­fore you fundraise.”

The ALS As­so­ci­a­tion is build­ing on the mo­men­tum of its more than 3 mil­lion new friends, and keep­ing those new con­trib­u­tors en­gaged will be the real chal­lenge for the or­ga­ni­za­tion in the com­ing weeks and months. Reach­ing back out to donors in the same way they came in—through so­cial me­dia—to ex­press ap­pre­ci­a­tion and show them the im­pact of their dol­lars is one way to con­tinue the con­ver­sa­tion, ex­perts sug­gest.

Cleve­land Clinic CEO Dr. Toby Cos­grove ac­cepts the Ice Bucket Chal­lenge.

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