Social Media Crazes and The Charity Sector

Earlier this year we saw young men downing drinks, then young women bared their make-up free faces as Neck Nominations and No Make-Up Selfies overtook social media. Now the Ice Water Challenge has swept across New Zealand leaving a hoard of shivering Kiwis in its wake.



New Zealanders challenged to complete the Ice Water Challenge have to film themselves standing outside in a bucket of ice cold water, having additional buckets of ice cold water poured over their heads (keep in mind it’s the depths of winter in NZ!). When they complete the challenge they donate $20 to a charity of their choice, post the video on Facebook and nominate three of their own friends to complete the challenge. 


Image: Greg Myers via Flickr/Creative Commons

Image: Greg Myers via Flickr/Creative Commons

Like all good peer pressure tactics the Ice Water Challenge offers you the standard choice: join in or lose out. If you are nominated but aren’t up to the challenge the rules dictate you then have to donate $100 to your chosen charity. It’s pretty expensive being a chicken.

Modern donors like to get something back from their donations. The US is continuously ranked first for global giving, so it’s not surprising that a majority of American call-to-actions include an incentive of a free gift.

For the younger, tech savvy generations there’s something you can give them that won’t cost you a penny, and is worth a whole lot to them – something worth posting about on their Facebook or Twitter.

Whether the Ice Water Challenge makes its way to the northern hemisphere or not, it’s evident that these social media dares for charity are becoming a fad in and of themselves.

The popularity of mobile is still gathering speed; Irish Telecom research states there are over 6.5 billion mobile subscriptions globally, and with mobile internet browsing set to overtake desktop use, that figure is only set to increase. Frequent use of social media sites contributes greatly to this.

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Social media is about interacting: fundraisers tend to view social media as an information platform, and then solely provide news about their cause. Crazes such the Ice Water Challenge allow your supports to give social media content back to you, advocate on your behalf and interact with you on a more personal level. Also, the novelty of such videos takes a long while to wear off. They are ‘train-wreck’ social media at its best, even if you think it’s a bit silly, you’re probably going to click play on that video. 



1.     A Little Bit of Brand Awareness - Each participant acknowledges in the video what charity they have chosen to donate to, meaning all their friends hear your name.


2.    A Donation - $20 from anyone brave enough to complete the challenge and $100 from the not-so-brave.


image via

image via

3.    New Supporters - Every person that views that video, or is nominated in turn, will see your name and know your cause is publicly recommended by their friend. 

NPC’s Fundraising Perspective Report states that 80% of donors choose a cause endorsed by a friend or family member. Not a bad position for your cause to be in considering those viewing these videos will soon have to choose a charity to donate to.


CanTeen New Zealand, a cancer support service for teenagers and young people, have reportedly taken in over $10,000 due to the craze. Last Wednesday they posted to their Facebook saying ‘We have seen an awesome influx of donations and well wishes from supporters we didn’t know we had – it is truly amazing and humbling.’

4.   Huge Financial Impact - These fads don’t often go viral, but when they do the financial benefits for charities can be phenomenal. Lynne St Clair-Chapman from the New Zealand Cancer Society confirmed that they had received in excess of $40,000 within the first week of the craze. 

These campaigns are hard to predict and near impossible to replicate, the only thing your charity can do is be prepared. Ensure that you have easy modes of donating available to all potential donors. Text donation and social media go hand-in-hand for younger generations as it’s easy to do, easy to share and let’s be honest, when is your mobile ever out of arm’s reach? And make sure you are active and engaging on social media, that way should another craze arise (and it will!) your organisation will be ready to hop on-board and ensure your cause reaches the masses.