Over the past two weeks, unless you’ve been living off the social media grid, you have probably seen dozens and dozens of people doing the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” It is a phenomenon where someone records a video of themselves being dumped with ice cold water and then challenging three of their friends to do the same. In most cases, they’ve been challenged by someone as well. If you’ve been challenged, you are supposed to get dumped with ice cold water or make a donation to the ALS Association (or both).
Since this started two weeks ago (on July 29), the ALS Association has received more than $4 million in donations, compared to $1.2 million during the same time last year. In fact, this has now caught on with celebrities from Justin Timberlake to Bill Gates.
My first thought is that whoever came up with this idea on behalf of the ALS Association is a genius. They certainly motivated people to donate and raise awareness through a viral social media campaign. They’ve certainly done their part to help fight against a disease and for a cause they care about.
With all that said, I have a few qualms that I’d like to take up to all of you out there who have participated in the “Ice Bucket Challenge.” First, I should say, that you should be thanked for doing something beyond yourself for a good cause, but is it a cause you really care about? Or did you just do this for a few moments of fun on social media? Do you even know what ALS is? Do you even know much about the ALS Association?
I ask this from the perspective of someone who raises money for good causes (I’m employed by a 501c3 charity organization and I have sat on the board of two 501c3 charities – including one I still serve on). As a fundraiser to these causes, one of my objectives is certainly raising money and creating brand awareness for the causes I care about. However, I also want those who donate to these causes to be partners in the cause. I hope if you have donated to the ALS Association (or thrown a bucket of ice on yourself to avoid giving a donation) that you will not let this be a one-time deal for you; just a fun video that you did for a 15-second moments of fame on your Facebook wall. I hope you will keep up with the people who are affected by this deadly and painful disease and do your part to be a lifelong partner in the struggle.
My other question is: did you care about fighting ALS before? Let me ask this another way: Why did you throw an ice bucket on yourself to fight ALS? There are plenty of other diseases and causes to take action for. There’s cancer, HIV/AIDS, there are refugees in need of help, kids in Africa and Asia without food and clean water. Why did you take a stand for ALS particularly?
How about this for a challenge: why let the “Ice Bucket Challenge” stop with ALS? Maybe there’s another cause you care about more passionately than this one. What will you do to inform your family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues? Maybe you already have and perhaps you can give some examples.
I am a firm believer in private philanthropy, but I also think it shouldn’t just be something you do without thought. There are plenty of causes I support and care about that come well ahead of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I get asked to support things every day, but I have a budget set aside for my own philanthropy. In fact, I believe in giving at least 10% of your income to philanthropic causes. But I have done my research on the things I care about. Of course, I’ll consider learning about other causes that I do not yet support – after all, that’s how I came to support the causes I support today.
While ALS is a really bad disease, it is not currently on my priority list (and this takes nothing away from those who do have it as a priority to fight against this disease). I hope and pray a cure is found. However, as someone who is also pro-life, I could not possibly support the ALS Association, since they conduct research using embryonic stem cells. If I were to support the fight against ALS, I would find another organization that conducts this scientific research in a more ethical way – such as The John Paul II Medical Research Institute.
Regardless of whether you participated in the “Ice Bucket Challenge” to raise awareness for ALS or donate to the ALS Association, let us all find an “Ice Bucket” that we can support and get behind – not just for 15 seconds on social media, but for a lifetime partnership to help those who we truly care about.