The craze of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge may be winding down on your newsfeed, but its impact on nonprofit organizations across the globe is lasting.

Viral fundraising is nothing new. Nonprofits around the world have been producing viral fundraising campaigns for years now. So what makes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge different?

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is a textbook example of how social media can be used to raise awareness of a cause or organization. Since the viral sensation took off at the end of July, the ALS Association has raised more than $109.1 million in donations; more than 24 times the amount typically raised during a similar time period (as of September 2014).

After gathering information from various sources, I’ve developed a list of why the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is considered one of the most successful viral fundraising campaigns in history.

  1. Simplicity. Let’s face it; it doesn’t take a rocket science to dump a bucket of ice water on their head. Since most people have access to a bucket of water and a camera phone, the ALS challenge required little work from participants (and it was fun), hence the high participation rate.

Note to future organizations looking to do a similar viral campaign: Make sure it’s simple in its manner. If you ask your audience to do a lot of work, you’ll lose them. 

  1. Word of Mouth/the Power of Social Media.We’re absolutely more likely to do something if our friends are doing it too (especially if it’s something cool). The concept is quite infectious, and since social media gave life to the challenge, it helped carry ALS’s vision to millions by spreading the challenge like wild fire.

Note to future organizations looking to do a similar viral campaign: Utilize social media and everything it has to offer. If people see it on Facebook and it looks intriguing, there’s a good chance others will jump on the bandwagon and get involved in some fashion.

  1. Timing. I don’t know about you, but I would not be overly excited if someone challenged me to pour a bucket of ice water on my head during the peak of winter. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge got underway in June and peaked in August (the hottest month for most U.S. states). The timing of the challenge couldn’t have been more perfect.

Note to future organizations looking to do a similar viral campaign: Timing is everything. Most viral fundraising campaigns are designed to get individuals to act on something in order to raise awareness. If you want individuals to act, you must consider the timing of your campaign.  

Prior to the rise of the ice bucket challenge, not many people were even aware of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS. Since the ALS Association targets such a minute group of people, it lacked visibility, but that isn’t the case anymore. The ALS challenge has put a new perspective on viral fundraising, and I hope to see more organizations incorporate aspects of this sensation in the future.

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