Friday, August 15, 2014

The ice bucket challenge is working, stop complaining

I've seen several articles criticizing the "ice bucket challenge" as a wasteful, inefficient fundraising tactic. Here's a typical argument from Ben Kosinksi at the Huffington Post:

And although the ALS Assocation has seen as much as four times as many donations during this time period than last year, just imagine with me for one second: What if the thousands of people who spent money on buying one or two bags of ice actually gave that money to ALS? It would be out of control.

Spoiler alert: They wouldn't.

I'm reminded of a charity alternative I thought up when I was in my 20's. Instead of taking pledges for a 10k or biking, participants could take pledges for a work-a-thon and do some kind of repetitive task, like stuff envelopes, for a company that in turn would then pay the charity for the labor. Instead of doing meaningless physical activities, you would have a second stream of income for the charity.

But here's the problem: No one wants to do that sort of thing because it isn't fun. Whenever I see these articles about how much money is wasted on bags of ice for this spontaneous "campaign" which wasn't formally organized by any group, I wonder if the writer really thinks people would be making those donations without the gimmick.

We have thousands of worthy causes in America that could use some donor money, but we need a way to get the attention of potential donors, and a campaign or event is an effective approach, even if it has overhead costs. On Aug. 11, TIME reported:

The ALS Association national office reported collecting $5.5 million in donations since July 29, compared with $32,000 in the same time period last year. Nearly 150,000 new donors have contributed.

It's like people who think advertising costs companies more money than it brings in. If that was the case, why would companies continue to advertise? Why do restaurants have tables and chairs if it would be so much cheaper to just each on the floor? Why does Relay for Life hold those big walk-a-thons if it's so much more profitable to do nothing and expect people to donate? If there's one thing we know about casual donors, it's that they seldom give without having an icebreaker first.

1 comment:

  1. I think the whole thing is foolish, but not for any economic reason.