According to Forbes, the ice bucket challenge has generated $100 million in just over a month for the ALS foundation. It’s mindblowing to think about really. How is it that such a silly thing as dumping ice on your head and daring your friends to do the same can result in over 3,000,000 people donating to a cause that they had likely never heard of prior to their Facebook challenge? I could rant all day about the merits of non-profit organizations using viral marketing for fundraising or why people should/shouldn’t participate. But at the end I can’t argue with the results going to a good cause that seeks to help makes the lives of other people better. After all, isn’t that the case for nearly every non-profit charity out there? So as I broke down what this really meant, what it was accomplishing and why, I came to one realization that I hope doesn’t get lost in the midst of it: together we make a lot bigger difference than as individuals.
Organizations for years have tried to find the key to social media engagement. Remember Invisible Children’s campaign to arrest Joseph Kony in 2012? It seemed that just like the Ice Bucket Challenge, every time you turned on the news or logged online you saw a KONY2012 update. The problem was when the campaign was over and people went back to other things and nothing ever happened to Joseph Kony. The difference here is that dollars carry a lot more weight; buttons, posters, and “awareness” don’t do a thing. Here we have millions and millions of dollars that will live on long after the novelty has worn off. The challenge shows no signs of slowing down either. Who knows how much money it could raise by the end of the year; possibly $200 or $300 million dollars. That will change the lives of countless current and future ALS patients as they battle the disease.
Imagine what would happen if we all stopped and realized the power of what just happened. For a moment when you and I were dumping ice water on our heads and calling our friends out, we felt like we were part of something bigger than ourselves. We were engaging our friends, contributing to a worthwhile cause, and having fun doing it. It gave us something more to have at stake than just a guilty conscious about donating or not. Regardless of ethnicity, income level, religion, or political affiliation people joined together in support of a common cause. It’s truly amazing when you think about it. And if we can do that what’s stopping us as a society, as members of humanity from doing more?
What if we decided to focus on one disease per year? Could we cure AIDS or Cancer?
What if we focused on one cause? Could we put an end to hunger or poverty?
It almost sounds like John Lennon as he was writing the words to Imagine. However, this feels a bit more tangible than “All the people living in harmony”. I’m sure that charitable organizations and research foundations are already trying to figure out how they can be the cause du jour for 2015. And while I may be a bit curmudgeonly about it, I’ll go along for the ride. I’m at a point where I don’t really care what it is, because I see a bigger picture of how much people united for a common cause can truly make a difference. And I hope people don’t get bored with it or tune it out like the infomercials telling you “for the price of a cup of coffee per day…”. Because afterall, how many buckets of ice are you willing to endure to make this planet a better place for all of us?