As social media are deluged with videos of people dumping buckets of ice water on their heads in the name of advocacy and philanthropy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), other healthcare not-for-profits can find marketing lessons in the now-famous challenge that they can use for their own charitable request efforts.
Chief among those lessons, be it for disease-related fundraising or a new hospital wing, is the power of grass-roots marketing. Another is to convey a sense of urgency about contributing, while personalizing your appeal, because people relate more readily to other people than to faceless causes, marketing experts agree.
To call the Ice Bucket Challenge—which has its origins outside of the official not-for-profit ALS organization—an Internet sensation would be an understatement. Without any association spending for a traditional fundraising campaign, it's become a national phenomenon, attracting the attention and support of actors, athletes, musicians and even former presidents.
“One of the reasons this worked so well was because it was grass-roots driven. As it was passed from person to person, it gathered so much momentum,” said Caryn Stein, vice president of communications and content at the online fundraising platform Network for Good. “The other piece was that it tapped into the idea of social networks, not just as a technology, but as a mode of our communication.”
People who may not previously have heard of ALS were introduced online to its symptoms and stories. They saw videos of people such as Pete Frates, 29, a former college baseball player who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, participate in the challenge despite being unable to speak.
“It's crazy how it exploded,” said Julia Campbell of J Campbell Social Marketing. “I'm from Beverly, Mass., where Pete Frates is from. I saw it here first, and then all of a sudden, the Red Sox were doing it, and then celebrities.”
And that's part of what has made the campaign so successful, experts say.