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VOL. 129 | NO. 166 | Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pearl and Mel Shaw

Getting In on Ice Bucket Challenge

By Mel and Pearl Shaw

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In the heat of summer having a bucket of ice water thrown on you may not be a bad thing. It’s a phenomenon that’s sweeping the nation – contagious fundraising spurred on by social media, sports celebrities, television hosts, movie stars and international performers. Everyone – it seems – is in on it. Well, except for the two of us. We are enjoying the summer heat with no ice water – but we’re giving to ALS anyway. Here’s the reason: we want to be “in with the in crowd.”

We’ve known of ALS – otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease – for decades. But no one has ever asked us to give to The ALS Foundation. There are so many worthy nonprofits to give to, and like most people we have a limited budget. But, how could we not give when the nation is gripped with the ice bucket challenge?

In case you don’t know, here’s a quick overview of the challenge: someone challenges you to give to ALS. If you don’t, you have to have a bucket of ice cold water dumped on you. Even better: have it video-taped and posted on social media. Once you complete the challenge you have to challenge others to give or get wet. Here’s the thing: many people are doing both. It’s fun. The videos are hysterical. And the money is pouring in. The numbers from their recent press release are astounding. “As of Tuesday, August 19, The ALS Association has received $22.9 million in donations compared to $1.9 million during the same time period last year (July 29 to August 19). These donations have come from existing donors and 453,210 new donors to The Association.”

And ALS knows receiving gifts is just the beginning. “Our top priority right now is acknowledging all the gifts made by donors to The ALS Association,” said Barbara Newhouse, president and CEO of The ALS Association. “We want to be the best stewards of this incredible influx of support. To do that, we need to be strategic in our decision making as to how the funds will be spent so that when people look back on this event in 10 and 20 years, the Ice Bucket Challenge will be seen as a real game-changer for ALS,” she continued.

The ALS Association is committed to communicating with donors and the public about future plans to spend the unprecedented amount of money it has received over the past few weeks.

So, should your nonprofit or college go viral with a “gimmick” to raise millions? Here are our thoughts: Put the fundamentals in place first. If you can’t track and thank your donors, you don’t want thousands of donors; that can become a viral disaster instead of success.

Next week: more about the fundamentals.

Learn more at www.alsa.org. #IceBucketChallenge

Mel and Pearl Shaw are the authors of “Prerequisites for Fundraising Success” and “The Fundraiser’s Guide to Soliciting Gifts.” They provide fundraising counsel to nonprofits. Visit them at www.saadandshaw.com. Follow them on Twitter: @saadshaw.

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