Millions Continue Pouring In For Ice Bucket Challenge

August 25, 2014       The NonProfit Times      

Two weeks after it seemed like a modest viral social media campaign that raised a few million dollars, the Ice Bucket Challenge has reached historic heights, approaching $80 million raised for ALS Association — including $61 million in the last week alone.

ALS Association and its 38 affiliates nationwide reported $79.7 million raised in donations since July 29, from existing donors as well as 1.7 million new donors – including 1.2 million new donors last week alone. By contrast, during the same time period last year, the organizations reported $2.5 million in donations. The annual budget for ALS Association’s national office in Washington, D.C. is typically less than $25 million.

A record $10.3 million in contributions was reported Wednesday, Aug. 20, but there hasn’t been a sharp drop ever since. After dipping to $7.7 million in donations on Saturday, ALS Association reported $9.5 million yesterday – the second highest total of the campaign. Last week, the campaign averaged $8.7 million and almost 200,000 new donors per day.

Celebrities helped the campaign reach new heights last week, making videos of dumping buckets of ice water on their heads, posting to social media and challenging others. Videos have taken on a more creative tone since the campaign began, with production values improving. Billionaire Bill Gates provided backstory of engineering a contraption to dump ice water on his head before challenging Tesla’s Elon Musk and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Rock band The Foo Fighters parodied a classic scene from the Stephen King thriller, “Carrie,” while others have incorporated water-themed scenes from movies like “Flashdance” and “Footloose.”

While ALS Association has taken the reins of the Ice Bucket Challenge, other ALS-related charities have seen some spillover in contributions. Project ALS, a smaller, New York City-based charity, reported receiving almost $200,000 in individual donations as of last week. The ALS Association’s Greater New York City chapter opened NASDAQ on Thursday.

The campaign has not been without its criticism, with some columnists opining that the Ice Bucket Challenge is just a fad taking away donations from other charities, wasting water, or labeling it “slacktivism” for making people think they’re doing good by merely dumping water on their heads.

It remains to be seen what effect the challenge may have on donors with a major fundraising broadcast coming up on Sept. 5, the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s bi-annual Stand Up To Cancer, which in some years has raised $80 million for cancer research.