More than $88.5 million has been raised for the ALS Association in the past several weeks through the Ice Bucket Challenge. The success of the challenge — which involves people across the world dumping ice water over their heads and then posting the video to social media feeds, selecting individuals to keep it going — is palpable. In fact, last year ALSA raised approximately $2.6 million, a staggering difference.
For each person complaining that they can’t take another #IceBucketChallenge video, even more are donating. It’s working. The following lessons learned from this icy challenge can be applied to practically any future campaign:
1. You won’t make everyone happy. You just won’t. Realizing and accepting this is the first step in any good campaign — and not just because you need to grow a thick enough skin to ignore the haters. If you try to please everyone, adapting your message to the “mass public,” it will go nowhere. Focus on the publics that will help your organization reach its goals. What do they care about? What sort of discussions or opportunities are important to them? Follow those answers, and don’t waste time on the rest.
2. People want to tell their own stories. Part of the success of this campaign is seeing everyone’s take on the challenge. From Dave Grohl’s cold Carrie spoof to reaction pieces from ALS families, stories and commentaries about this disease are making their rounds. Organizations that let people (whether it be their employees, patrons or supporters) tell their own stories understand the power of relatability. People want to hear from those that know and are involved, not just a talking head or a spokesperson. (Note: Researching the sentiment towards your organization prior to these kind of campaigns will help you avoid crisis situations such as the #myNYPD campaign fail.)
3. Everyone has an agenda — and that’s okay. As my friend Amber pointed out in her challenge video, ALSA is just one of many organizations that need support to solve world issues. Many people are using these videos to encourage donations towards other nonprofit organizations such as WaterAid.org or Water.org, who both seek to solve sanitation issues for people throughout the world. In fact, Matt Damon recently doused himself in ice cold toilet water to prove his point. It is paramount to realize you won’t convince anyone to do something that isn’t in their self interests. The key is finding that point in the Venn Diagram of needs where people with the same interests will be motivated to help your cause.
4. Awareness without a call to action is useless. The most successful challenge videos include information on how to become involved, not just calling out other people and screaming when the ice hits. Jimmy Fallon gave a great example of awareness combined with a call to action: he explained what it was, why it was important (the emotional hook) and what one could do to help. All of those things were secondary to watching the water hit everyone on stage, but were integral to making the video more than Fallon and friends getting drenched for a laugh.
5. Influence can be found everywhere. Yes, it’s fun to watch celebrities do things, including dumping ice water over themselves. However, the #IceBucketChallenge has been largely successful in its influence on a smaller, more personal level. Nearly everyone reading this can attest to seeing their social media feeds full of challenge videos from friends, family members and community leaders. It is in these circles of influence that the average individual is challenged, motivated to participate and donate, and feels the emotional connection to the cause. Understanding who really motivates your publics will go much farther than another Katy Perry cat video.