Why Did the Ice Bucket Challenge Work?

You've all heard about the Ice Bucket Challenge, we’re sure your Facebook feed is still jam packed with videos of your shivering friends. 

The challenge, in which people are filming themselves dumping buckets of ice cold water over their head and then posting the video online, turned pro-active last week when donations began flooding into LIKECHARITY for the Irish Motor Neuron Disease Association, who today announced donations have surpassed €1.4 million.

But if you’re a charity fundraiser you’re probably wondering: How did this happen? Why did this happen? And how can I recreate it?

The Ice Bucket Challenge marks the third viral campaign for LIKECHARITY’s Dublin office, so here’s our inside view on how and why social media campaigns go viral:


The Why:

1.      Your Donors Want to Show Their Support:

Aisling Farrell, CEO of IMNDA completing the Ice Bucket Challenge in Stephen's Green, Dublin. Image courtesy of IMNDA.

Aisling Farrell, CEO of IMNDA completing the Ice Bucket Challenge in Stephen's Green, Dublin. Image courtesy of IMNDA.

Social Media is a communications tool, and as organisations we tend to forget that all communication should be two ways.

Donors feel more engaged with your charity by publicising their support. Everyone that posts a video including your call-to-action becomes one of your fundraisers.


2.   Peer Influence is Alive and Well:

Social media is about displaying the best version of yourself, people share their good news and holiday pictures, no-one is advertising that pile of unwashed dishes that they've been putting off all week. Supporting your cause gives donors that ‘good deed’ feeling, and allows them to shout about it. NPC’s Fundraising Perspective Report says that 80% of donors choose a cause endorsed by a friend or family member.  

So in a bid to keep up with the Jones’ every video leads to more support, more posts and more donations. 


3.     Celebrity Endorsement:

We can’t all get A-list celebs to publicly engage with our cause but the Ice Bucket Challenge proves – when Oprah screams, the world listens.


4.   It's What the People Want: 

People are accustomed to being entertained by social media. Allow your supporters to have fun when they engage with your cause. 



The How:

1.  Keeping It Simple:

Here at LIKECHARITY we believe in being simple and engaging. This should apply to every aspect of your fundraising, but most importantly your donation method. 

Having a simple way to raise funds, such as text donation makes a world of difference (1.4 million worlds of difference if we're counting). 


2.   Staying on Top of Things:

Image: Greg Myers via Flickr/Creative Commons

Image: Greg Myers via Flickr/Creative Commons

You may remember back in July LIKECHARITY told you about a little campaign sweeping New Zealand called the Ice Water Challenge. Well that little campaign made it to the States where a well-informed fundraiser for ALS slapped their name on it. 

Once the campaign took off, their name stuck. $94.3 million later that once small organisation now has the ability to revolutionise ALS research, and that one fundraiser deserves a pat on the back.






3.   Remembering Your Ps and Qs:

If someone makes a donation through your website, you will always send a thank you response to let them know you appreciate their support. Viral campaigns are bigger, but no different. 

ALS and IMNDA took to their websites and social media accounts daily to express their heartfelt thanks to everyone who contributed to the phenomenon. A simple thank you reinforces that 'good deed' feeling for donors and deepens your organisation's relationship with these thousands of new supporters. 

Image courtesy of The Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association

You can't create a viral campaign, sometimes they work and sometimes they don't, but what you can do is be prepared. Embrace the new forms of fundraising that the Ice Bucket Challenge has proved work. Be aware of everything that's happening in the fundraising world around you and pay attention to any new ways you can communicate with potential donors. 

The future of fundraising is mobile and social - it's time to adapt.